Armenian Stuffed Cabbage is among the recipes featured in "New Recipes from Moosewood Restaurant" (Ten Speed Press, $19.95 paperback).
The restaurant, founded in 1973 in Ithaca, N.Y., by the Moosewood Collective, has long been a favorite vegetarian haunt with a strong appeal for non-vegetarians. A first "Moosewood Cookbook" by Mollie Katzen came out in the 1980s.
The collective has had a changing cast over the years; at present it numbers 17 members, who describe their restaurant as worker-owned and worker-operated. Each owner may also be a cook, waiter or dishwasher. Their current book has about 200 recipes, using ideas from different cuisines to produce simple dishes.
This one draws from Laura Brancas Armenian heritage.
Armenian Stuffed Cabbage
- 2 cups uncooked brown rice
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 3 1/2 cups water
- 1 large green cabbage, cored (see note)
- 1 cup walnuts, finely chopped
- 1 cup almonds, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh spearmint or 1 tablespoon dried spearmint
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 3 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
- 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
- 3 cups canned tomatoes
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- Yogurt, optional garnish
- Chopped fresh parsley, optional garnish
Saute the rice in a tablespoon of olive oil, stirring continuously, for 3 to 4 minutes. The rice will begin to smell "nutty," somewhat reminiscent of popcorn. Add the bay leaves, salt, tomato paste and water and stir until the tomato paste is dissolved. Cover and bring the rice to a boil; turn the heat off for 5 minutes, then simmer the rice on very low heat for 25 minutes without lifting lid; let rice stand off heat for 10 minutes, then stir it well.
Meanwhile, immerse head of cabbage in boiling water (for alternative, see note below). After several minutes, as each leaf begins to separate from the head, pull it off and set leaves aside to cool. You will need 12 well-shaped leaves to stuff.
Combine nuts, mint and 1/2 cup parsley in a mixing bowl. Remove bay leaves from rice, and add the rice to the nut mixture. Mix in 2 to 3 tablespoons of olive oil, the garlic and half the lemon juice.
Make a thin sauce by crushing the tomatoes in their juice, then mixing in the salt, pepper, remaining lemon juice and remaining olive oil. Thin sauce with a little water if necessary. Ladle some of the sauce into a large skillet or soup pot.
Put 1/3 to 1/2 of the rice-nut filling on the thick end of each cabbage leaf. Fold the sides over the mixture and then roll up toward the thin edge of the leaf. Arrange the cabbage rolls, seam side down, on top of the sauce in the pot. Pour the rest of the sauce over the rolls, cover and simmer for 30 to 45 minutes. Test the cabbage for tenderness by piercing with a fork.
Top with a dollop of yogurt and more chopped parsley, if desired. Serve with steamed, fresh green beans and julienned carrots.
Makes 6 servings.
Note: If you can freeze a head of cabbage a few days before making stuffed cabbage, and thaw it one day before, the cabbage leaves will easily peel off the head. Then blanch the leaves for a few minutes in boiling water.
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