From plump Eastern European golabki to slender Levantine malfouf mahshi, cabbage rolls are among the world’s most common stuffed vegetable dishes.
Here, individual rolls become a large cabbage “cake”—easier than stuffing lots of little rolls, and visually stunning. Before you begin, make sure you have a suitable pot. It has to be ovenproof, 8 to 9 inches (20 to 23 cm) in diameter, and relatively shallow.
Excerpted from Shuk by Einat Admony & Janna Gur (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2019
- Cook Time
- Prep Time
- 5 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 medium green or savoy cabbage
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 medium yellow onions, finely chopped
- 1 cup (185 g) jasmine rice, rinsed and drained
- 1 pound (455 g) ground beef
- 2 tablespoons pine nuts, fried or toasted
- ¼ cup (25 g) sliced blanched almonds, fried or toasted
- ¼ cup (30 g) coarsely chopped shelled pistachios
- ¼ cup (35 g) coarsely chopped raisins
- 1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or hot paprika
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- ⅛ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 3 cups (720 ml) homemade or low-sodium store-bought chicken stock or water
- Classic Tahini Sauce, for serving
Fill a large pot with about 3 quarts (3 L) water, add 2 teaspoons of the salt, and bring the water to a boil.
With a sharp knife, carefully carve out the core of the cabbage (this will allow the leaves to loosen and cook more evenly). Using tongs or a slotted spoon, gently plunge the cabbage into the rapidly boiling water, cored-side down, and cook over medium-high heat for 4 to 5 minutes.
Using tongs or two large spoons, remove the cabbage from the pot and place it on the counter, cored-side down. (Keep the water in the pot at a simmer.) Using tongs or two forks, peel away as many of the outer leaves as have softened and become pliable enough to remove. Pile the leaves flat in a colander and rinse with cold water.
Bring the water back to a boil, return the cabbage head to the pot, and boil for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the cabbage from the water and separate more softened leaves. Repeat this process until you have 14 nice leaves.
Check the leaves: If there’s still some core attached or their bottoms are a little tough, trim the leaves or shave any thick ribs as needed so the leaves bend easily. Set aside.
Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté until soft and golden brown, 7 to 8 minutes. Add the rice and sauté for 2 minutes longer. Add the ground beef, mix well, and sauté, crumbling the meat with a fork, for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and add the pine nuts, almonds, pistachios, raisins, Aleppo pepper, cumin, cinnamon, the remaining 3 teaspoons salt, and several twists of black pepper. Mix everything thoroughly with your hands or a spoon; set aside.
Preheat the oven to 325°F (165°C). To assemble the cake: Slick the bottom and sides of an ovenproof 8- to 9-inch (20 to 23 cm) pot (such as a small Dutch oven) with the remaining tablespoon oil. Line the bottom with one nice cabbage leaf, then arrange 8 more leaves in an overlapping fashion over the bottom and up the sides of the pot. If you are using a shallow (4-inch-high/10 cm) pot, the leaves may hang over the rim; that’s fine. Pile the beef mixture in the center of the cabbage leaves and smooth it lightly into an even layer. Fold the ends of the cabbage leaves over the beef mixture, then layer the remaining 6 leaves on top to make a tidy cake. Slowly pour in the stock or water, taking care not to disturb the leaves.
Find a smaller pot lid or a plate that will fit inside the pot (anything flat and heatproof will do) and place it on top of the cabbage cake. (This will weigh down the cake as it cooks and keep it flat.) Cover the pot with a lid or aluminum foil, transfer it to the oven, and bake for 1 hour. To check for doneness, open the leaves a little and check the rice: When the rice is tender, everything is cooked. Take the pot out of the oven, remove the lid and the plate, and heat the cabbage cake on the stovetop over medium heat for about 10 minutes; this will get a little color on the bottom of the cake (which will eventually be the top) and evaporate any excess liquid around the sides. Remove from the heat and leave the cake in the pot to settle the layers for about 10 minutes. Now get ready for the flip: Place a large flat serving plate (or a cake stand) on top of the pot and, holding the pot and the plate tightly together, flip them with one smooth, decisive swing (watch out for any hot juices). Lift the pot away carefully. Cut the cabbage cake into wedges and serve with tahini sauce.