Friday, October 28, 2011

Stuffed Cabbage and Rain Storms

I know I've said it before, but what is with the rain this year?! I can't help but think of the nursery rhyme I grew up singing.  Rain rain go away, come again another day? Maybe not. Rain rain go to Spain, never show your face again? That's more like it!  

I spent a good part of the summer looking for the silver lining to all the rain.  All I came up with was that it must have made home gardeners quite happy.  I can't be sure, though, because I have a green black thumb.  It's all I can do to keep my potted basil plant alive but my father fancies himself quite the gardener and I'm inclined to agree.  So maybe all the rain this year was good for dad's garden because he procured quite a bounty: a plethora of peppers, 2 types of eggplant, green, yellow and butternut squashes, never ending tomatoes, broccoli, herbs, cabbage and I think I saw the beginnings of a few small pumpkins! On a trip home in late August, I made sure to plunder the family farmer's market of some precious booty! In all honesty, it wasn't so much a plundering as a Hurricane Irene induced hand-out.  Fear of the impending hurricane had left dad scrambling to harvest as much of his garden as humanly possible and I (along with the rest of his neighborhood) reaped the benefits! 

I found myself with some gorgeous yellow squash, baby heirloom tomatoes, zucchini and the aforementioned 2 types of eggplant which all came together for my Confetti Couscous, but then I was left with this enormous head of cabbage.  This monstrosity was so big (how big was it?!) - it didn't even fit in the fridge!  I knew I could get a meal and at least 1 side dish (maybe 2) out of this colossal cabbage.  First order of business - Italian Style Stuffed Cabbage; a comforting meal from my childhood that is perfect for rainy and not-so-rainy nights alike.  Next up - a warm cabbage slaw with smoky, salty bacon. And finally, since no cabbage ever sets foot in this house without taking a nice long bath in some beef stock - a small batch of Doug's favorite cabbage soup.  

It was the perfect night to spend in front of the stove.  Hurricane Irene was on her way; the rain had just started to pelt the house, the wind was whipping into a frenzy and I was whipping up a hearty meal.  I got the cabbage stuffed, smothered it with tomato sauce and sat back listening to the rain as the house filled with the most wonderful earthy aroma.  The stuffed cabbage was more than enough for a couple meals for us and the warm cabbage slaw was a fantastic side dish for some spicy turkey sausage a few nights later. Gazing out the window yesterday, on that dreary, gloomy Thursday got me thinking about that blustery weekend in August; how much we enjoyed that cabbage and how, once again, it would be the perfect night for a cozy meal like this. 

The stuffed cabbage pairs very well with just about any side dish (mashed potatoes - find my recipe for cheesy mashed potatoes here - and veggies are a personal favorite)!

Cal: 152 Fat: 6g Carb: 13g  Protein: 14g  Fiber: 3g
Yields 8-10 (nutritional information based on 9 servings)

8-10 large cabbage leaves
1 lb lean ground turkey
1 cup brown rice
2 cups plus 1 cups fat free chicken broth (divided)

1 large egg
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/3 cup pecorino romano cheese, grated (plus additional for topping, to taste)
2 tsp Italian seasoning blend
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes (with basil)

Fill a large stock pot with water and bring to a boil.  Once boiling, salt the water liberally.  Clean 8-10 large cabbage leaves and blanche until wilted (about 10 minutes).

Drain, pat dry and set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, cook rice in 2 cups of chicken broth for 35-40 minutes until broth is mostly absorbed; removing from heat when it is just slightly undercooked.  Allow to cool. 

In a large bowl combine ground turkey, egg, garlic, parsley, italian seasoning and pecorino romano cheese.  Mix well.  Add cooled rice and mix until all ingredients are well combined.

Lay a cooled cabbage leaf flat on a cutting board, add a scoop of filling at one end (I used an ice cream scoop for perfect proportions).  Roll cabbage inwards over the stuffing, tucking in sides as you go.  Repeat with remaining cabbage leaves until all filling is used.   Place filled leaves in a large, deep saute pan. 

Mix crushed tomatoes with remaining cup of chicken broth and pour over stuffed cabbage leaves.  Cover and cook on medium high heat until sauce comes to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for an hour. 

Serve stuffed cabbage smothered in sauce topped with additional pecorino romano cheese, if desired. 

Bon Appetit!

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