The size and beauty of the savoy cabbages on display at the Logan Square farmers market this past Saturday could not to be ignored. But what recipe would showcase the pretty plant to best advantage? Thinking it through, I recalled several old German recipes that called for stuffing an entire head of cabbage and then steaming it, tightly-wrapped in cheesecloth, before service. I thought creating a vegetarian version of a whole-stuffed cabbage, centering it on a platter and then surrounding it with more freshly steamed farmers-market produce, would be a nice update.
Rather than go with the traditional sweet-sour, tomato-sauced treatment of stuffed cabbage, I turned to the lighter, lemony, Greek-styled rice filling my family loves: rice seasoned with lots of mushrooms, onions, garlic, lemon juice and lemon thyme. (If you really want the meat in there, use 1 1/2 pounds of ground sirloin and omit a half pound of the finely-diced mushroom.) For added richness and yet more Greek flair, you can serve this dish with a side of creamy avgolemono (egg-lemon) sauce, or, lemon butter.
Makes 10 servings
Vegetarian Stuffed Cabbage Ingredients
- 2 cups long-grain white rice
- 3 cups water
- 1 large savoy cabbage
- 2 to 3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil (as needed)
- 1 large sweet onion, diced
- 6 cloves garlic, finely diced
- 1 lb. baby bella mushrooms, finely diced (OR, for meat version: 1 1/2 lb ground sirloin plus 1/2 lb. baby bella mushrooms)
- juice from 2 fresh lemons
- 1 Tbsp fresh lemon thyme leaves
- salt & freshly cracked pepper to taste
- Assorted fresh vegetables, steamed and buttered, to serve with stuffed cabbage
- Carefully remove the outer leaves of the cabbage and discard
- Carefully remove the next layer of dark green leaves, wash and set aside to be used as garnish
- Carefully partially peel back cabbage leaves to open cabbage; insert a sharp knife and cut out the majority of the inside of the cabbage, being careful to leave the bottom core intact and being careful not to damage the outer leaves.
- Gently wash cabbage and then invert it over a quart jar or tall glass to allow it to dry.
- Cook rice using your favorite method. (I use a rice cooker: 2 cups rice to 3 cups water)
- Heat 2 Tbsp of olive oil in skillet over medium heat and saute onions, garlic and mushrooms until soft. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Finely chop enough of the cabbage you removed from the interior of the savoy, to make 3 cups. Saute until soft.
- Saute ground sirloin, if using.
- In a large bowl, combine cooked mushrooms, onion, garlic, cabbage (and sirloin, if using) Adjust for salt & pepper seasoning. Stir in lemon thyme and juice of two lemons.
- Carefully stuff cabbage cavity with filling; place filled cabbage on a large square of cheesecloth; tie into a firm bundle. (NOTE: You will have extra filling that can be heated and served along with the meal)
- In a large stock pot, heat water to boiling; place wrapped cabbage on a steamer rack in pot and steam for about 7 to 10 minutes, covered.
- Prepare fresh vegetables to serve with the cabbage. (We used baby patty-pan and summer squash, green beans and German butterball potatoes. We simply steamed the squash and beans, par-boiled/pan fried the potatoes and then tossed all in a little butter with a sprinkling of fresh lemon juice and more lemon thyme.)
- To assemble: For a center-of-the-table presentation: Place the washed, raw dark green cabbage leaves that you saved to use as the garnish, in a circle on your serving platter. Carefully unwrap the stuffed cabbage and place in the center of the leaves. Surround with vegetables. Fold back the leaves of the stuffed cabbage a bit to show the filling. Mound a bit more filling in the center, if desired.