Sorry, I didn't bother with a picture as I have so many cabbage roll recipes on the blog already. You probably know what cabbage rolls look like.
After some thought, I decided to try a filling that didn't use rice. Instead, I served it over rice, which gave a more attractive presentation. Funny, I never imagined myself using "Attractive presentation", and "Cabbage rolls", in the same sentence. Maybe I really should have taken a photograph. Maybe you have to be of Eastern European heritage to find beauty in cabbage rolls. Next thing, I'll be drinking tea from a glass.
Right, so how does one make cabbage rolls? I really find that blanching the leaves first makes them easier to fill, and cuts down on the cooking time. I also like to make my fillings ahead of time, so everything is ready to assemble and bake. To start making all of this at once would take a couple hours and honestly, I tire too easily now for that sort of an effort. You could easily make the filling the day before, and just blanch and fill the cabbage leaves the evening you cook it. That would make it easier if you had to work away from home all day. What I'm saying is, don't get intimidated by the length of these recipes. Most can be made partly ahead.
You Will Need:
1 cup lentils, sorted rinsed and soaked 4 hours
6-8 outer leaves of a head of cabbage
4 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 carrots, finely diced
2 large onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 cups chopped, fresh parsley
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
(about) 1 cup dry breadcrumbs
2 large eggs
1 cup tinned tomatoes and liquid, chopped-liquid reserved
1/2 cup tinned spaghetti sauce
2 cups vegetable broth
In a large pot of boiling water, blanch the cabbage leaves for two minutes. Turn off heat, let sit for five minutes. Drain and refresh under cold running water. Dry well on kitchen towels. If done ahead, keep in a covered bowl in the fridge until needed.
Drain and rinse lentils. Place in a small pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cook, partially covered until soft-about 20 minutes. Drain. If doing ahead keep chilled.
In a large pot, melt the butter and oil over medium heat. Add the onions, carrots, and garlic. Cook until carrots are soft. Add herbs and seasonings. Reduce heat to very low and cook until parsley has broken down, and everything is quite soft. If it seems dry, add a bit more oil. Add the lentils and cook a few minutes more to blend flavours. Remove from heat. If making ahead, keep chilled until ready to assemble.
For the sauce:
Combine tomatoes, sauce, and stock in a bowl. Set aside until needed.
Before filling cabbage rolls, beat the two eggs and breadcrumbs into the lentil/carrot mixture. You may need more breadcrumbs, but keep in mind they will expand as they absorb liquid. It should hold together without being dry. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly butter a large casserole dish. Fill each cabbage leaf generously without over-stuffing. They really will expand a bit as they cook. Arrange in the pan. Pour over the sauce, and place in oven. Bake 30 minutes. Baste with juices to keep top from getting too dried out. Return to oven, reduce heat to 350 degrees F. for another 30 minutes or until done.
Serve hot over rice.