Vegetarian Stuffed Cabbage

Vegetarian Stuffed Cabbage

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Ingredients

1 large head green cabbage
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
1-2 carrots, shredded
1-2 parsnips, shredded
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1/2 cup rice, uncooked (or 1/2 cup brown rice, par-cooked for 20 minutes and drained)
1 lb beef, or grated vegetarian beef substitute (I've used chicken-style patties to good effect)
2 cups tomato sauce or v8-style tomato juice
1 cup vegetable broth
1-2 Tbsp cider vinegar
1-2 Tbsp sugar
salt and pepper

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare the cabbage by cutting out the core (without cutting into the leaves too much). Place in a large pot, and cover with boiling water. Let sit in the water to soften ~10-15 minutes (the cabbage will float, so try to spin it around a bit to ensure it all comes in contact with the water). Alternately, you can soften the cabbage by placing it in the freezer the night before and allowing it to thaw (the ice crystals will do enough damage to the cell walls that the thawed cabbage will be limp enough to work with), but I never think of this in advance.

Heat the oil over a medium flame in a large skillet. Add the onions, and saute until translucent and softened. Add the carrot and parsnip, and saute for another minute or two, until softened. Remove from heat, and season with salt and pepper (season a bit heavily if using beef, just to taste if using a pre-seasoned meat alternative). Add the tomato paste, rice and meat (or meat substitute).

Drain the cabbage, and pull off the leaves. If the center rib of any leaf is big and unwieldy, you can cut it out with a v-shaped slice (but this isn't necessary). Take a leaf, and scoop 1/4-1/3 cup filling in the center (the exact amount will vary based upon leaf size - no need to overstuff). Fold the sides of the leaf around the filling, and roll up the remainder. Place the stuffed leaf, seam side down, in a large casserole dish. Repeat with the remaining leaves and filling. If you have leftover leaves, you can chop them finely and scatter them over the top, although that sadly distracts from your neat little packages.

In a separate bowl, mix together the tomato sauce, broth, vinegar and sugar. Season to taste with salt and pepper, adjusting the vinegar and sugar as needed to make a sauce that is just a little bit sweet and tangy. Pour the sauce over the stuffed cabbage (you may need to wait a few moments to make sure it settles into all of the nooks and crannies, depending on how densely you've got them packed). Cover tightly with a lid or foil, and bake until the filling is set and the cabbage is totally soft, ~ 1 hour. Enjoy right away, or let cool and freeze.