Sunday, January 24, 2010

Un-Stuffy Cabbage

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A few weeks ago in the Commercial Appeal Food Section, there was a recipe for stuffed cabbage leaves. I was thinking "Boy! I love stuffed cabbage." But then I thought about all the work in blanching and peeling off whole cabbage leaves a few at a time, and then stuffing them all, and if they don't fit just right in the pan they fall apart. So I just knew I wasn't going to make them anytime soon.

But why not cook the cabbage and pour the stuffing part over it? I tried it. I cooked wedges of cabbage and put a tomato sauce with ground turkey in it over the top. The results were not felicitous--I wasn't all that crazy about it, and neither was my husband.

But now I had a challenge. I wanted all the flavor without so much work. Here's what I did: I used a package of pre-chopped mirepoix mix (carrot, celery and onion) from the freezer section of the supermarket. I made turkey meatballs, baked them briefly then simmered them in a sort of sweet-savory tomato sauce. I bought a bag of cole slaw mix from the produce section. I sautéed the slaw mix in some bacon fat (olive oil would work, too). I cooked chunky pasta shapes, drained them and mixed the cabbage in with it. With the sauce and meatballs over the top, I don't think it could have been any better.

I tossed greens with a light vinaigrette and I had a very good dinner. And all together, it didn't take much longer to make than it might to just get the cabbage leaves ready to stuff. Best of all, my husband pronounced this version quite tasty.

Unstuffy Cabbage Pasta

Spice blend:
2 tbsp kosher salt
2 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp dried oregano, crumbled finely
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

To finish:
1 bag frozen mirepoix mix, divided (12-14 ounces)
3 tbsp olive oil, divided
1 lb ground turkey (see note)
1/2 cup fine dry bread crumbs
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and grated (or 1 tsp ground ginger)
1 can (14-16 oz) diced tomatoes
1 tbsp hoisin sauce or soy sauce
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp (packed) dark brown sugar
1 bag cole slaw mix
2 tbsp bacon fat or olive oil
1 lb chunky pasta shapes (e.g. fusilli, rigatoni)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Blend the spices in a small bowl. In a large skillet, heat 1 tbsp olive oil over medium heat. Add about one-third of the bag of mirepoix mix. Cook, stirring occasionally, until soft. Remove into a medium bowl and let cool for a few minutes. Add the ground turkey and one-third of the spice blend. Mix lightly to combine and form meatballs a little smaller than a golf ball. Place on a baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes, until set but not browned. Remove from the oven and reserve.

In the same skillet heat the remaining 2 tbsp olive oil. Add the garlic and ginger and stir a couple of times. Add the remaining mirepoix mix. Cook, stirring, until soft. Add the remaining spice mix and stir briefly. Add the tomatoes and their juices, hoisin or soy sauce, wine vinegar and sugar. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the meatballs and continue to simmer while cooking the pasta.

In a large pot, heat the bacon fat (or olive oil). Add the cole slaw mix and cook, stirring frequently, until just barely soft. Remove to a serving bowl. Don't rinse the pan, but add 3 quarts of water. Bring to a boil, add the pasta and cook until just al dente. Drain and add to the bowl with the cabbage. Toss to combine, top with the meatballs and sauce and serve. Serves 6.

NOTE: I used ground turkey with light and dark meat because I find it stays moister. All white turkey meat is lower in fat and calories, but you must be very careful not to overcook the meatballs if you use it.

1 comment:

Caleb said...

I found your food blog going through a few links. Glad I ran into it. Didn’t know that the food blog/recipe community was so big online. I love your posts!

I was wondering if you would like to exchange links. I’ll drop yours on my site and you drop mine on yours. Email at or stop by my site and drop a comment. Let me know if you would like to do a link exchange.