Saturday, August 27, 2011

Unstuffed cabbage

I've been in the mood for stuffed cabbage lately and decided I would give this time-consuming, flavorful dish from my youth a try. I've never made stuffed cabbage, never watched my mom make it and was at a total loss and in panic mode when I got home with the ingredients. So I did what any well respected re-mixer would do- I came up with a quick, no fuss recipe that tastes as good as the original, but takes half the time and is SIMPLE. Of course I can't call it stuffed cabbage, so I've opted for Unstuffed Cabbage and Meatballs. Try this oven-baked casserole when you're in the mood for a lower east side deli flashback.

Baked Unstuffed Cabbage and Meatballs

1 pound ground beef
1/2 large onion grated
2 cloves garlic minced
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 cup cooked brown rice
1 egg beaten

Sauce-Inspired by Rae Fox
2 T canola oil
1 medium onion chopped, 1 inch dice
2 cups cabbage chopped and divided- I used the plain green cabbage
Juice of 2 lemons
1/4 tsp vinegar- I used rice vinegar
1/2 cup brown sugar- I used 1/4 cup Splenda Brown
1 15 oz can tomato sauce
1 15 oz can water

To make the meatballs, combine all ingredients except the beef. Add the beef and gently mix with your fingertips. The less you play with the meat, the more tender the meatballs will be. Form into 8 large meatballs and set aside in the refrigerator while you make the sauce.

To make the sauce, heat oil in large pot and add diced onion and 1 cup of chopped cabbage. Cook over medium/low heat until both vegetables are tender, but not brown. Add lemon juice, vinegar, brown sugar, tomato sauce and water. Bring to a boil, stir to combine, lower heat and simmer 5 minutes. Pre heat oven to 350 degrees.

To assemble the meal, spoon a small amount of the sauce on the bottom of a casserole dish. Arrange meatballs in casserole and cover with remaining sauce and reserved uncooked chopped cabbage. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake 2 hours. Serve with cooked rice.

I will admit this does not make the beautiful presentation of pillows of meat-stuffed cabbage my mom used to serve, but I promise you, the flavor is all there. And just like the original, it's even better the second day.

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