Stuffed cabbage is another great dish that is a result of the cultural confluence of some East European countries and Asia Minor. Aleks prepared it for our Macedonian parté recently. I believe that in this dish Europe is represented by the preserved cabbage and Asia by the rice. The blending of cultures is so romantic! I really love it.
It was a bit of a pain to make not only because it is labor intensive but also because it requires a lot of whole preserved cabbage leaves. We only found one jar of whole leaves after much peregrination through stores specialized in Eastern European and Middle Eastern foods. John and Aleks looked in the East Bay and Steven and I here in San Francisco. Are these a seasonal product or what? I thought that the whole point of preserving the cabbage was to make it available later in the year!?!
Well I must confess I enjoy the task of searching for obscure ingredients. It is such a joy when you finally find them, even when you realize that you can only take a bit home. It’s sort of a challenge. This time we were not the lucky ones. I think we exchanged at least half a dozen emails with the East Bay-ers, not to mention phone calls, on the subject of the “cabbage DRAMA.” How could we make this dish without the essential ingredient?
Stuffed cabbage goes by various aliases, depending on the country where it’s made. In Macedonia it’s called Sarma; in Turkey, Domae; in Poland, Golumpki. Here in the Bay Area it should probably be called Cabbage Drama, which rhymes with Sarma which gets us back to the Macedonian party! Yeah!!
Stuffed Cabbage Drama
Here’s the recipe:
2 cup of rice, mixed brown and white long grain
1 can (8 to 12oz) of fire roasted tomatoes in chunks with juices
1 cup of pine nuts
2 small chopped onions
1 tbsp smoked paprika (Hungarian)
1 can preserved cabbage with its juice (whole leaves)
1 can preserved cabbage cut up
Salt and fresh black pepper
3 tbsp olive oil
Sauté onions in olive oil on medium heat till opaque in color. Add rice, pine nuts, paprika, salt and black pepper and stir. Add tomatoes. Cook on low heat till juices are absorbed. Rice will be 1/3 of the way cooked. Turn heat off. Let cool a bit, so you can handle the rice to stuff the cabbage.
Place a thin layer of cut preserved cabbage at the bottom of a pressure cooker. Drizzle some olive oil over it. Make the Cabbage Drama by stuffing each leaf with a portion of the rice mix. Place rolls tightly together at the bottom of the pan. You can pile them a bit if necessary. Partially submerge the rolls with juices from cabbage brine. Cover cooker.
Turn the heat to max, wait for 4 whistles of your pressure cooker, turn temp to low and cook for about 5-8 min. The rice will swell inside the cabbage, absorb most of the juices and hold everything together. Bon apétit!
Note: taste brine before using in the recipe. If it’s too salty use less of it and top up the pressure cooker with good ol’water.