Monday, April 14, 2014

Italian Stuffed Cabbage Rolls (Passover friendly!)

Happy Passover to those celebrating and Happy Monday to everyone else!

I've always had mixed feelings about Passover.  On one hand, the story is pretty compelling: an enslaved people yearning for freedom from their captors, a guy who can talk to a bush and witnesses plagues of fire and bugs (and of course, death), and a fast-paced desert chase scene leading to a divinely inspired tsunami that vanquishes the foes and leads the enslaved people to freedom. 


On the other hand, this holiday denies me bread and replaces one of my favorite foods with a tasteless, dry cracker.

Most of the time Passover is manageable--especially if you eat meat.  You simply go low carb for a week and replace your starches with meat, chicken, or fish (observant Jews do not eat pork). 

It's a little bit more complicated if you're trying to eat a mainly plant-based diet--especially if your Jewish ancestors came from Eastern Europe (making you Ashkenazic) since you're also denied kitniyot (legumes, beans, rice, corn).  Supposedly, it's because the rabbis in Eastern Europe thought these foods were too much like leavened wheat (Holy Jewish Guilt, Batman!) and decided to abstain just in case.  It's now more of a custom than anything, but it's a pretty consistent custom (Sephardic Jews, however, DO eat kitniyot).

So there you are, the plant-based food person on Passover not eating leavened wheat ANYTHING.  Nor are you eating beans, legumes, tofu, rice, or corn.  And with your hands outstretched to the heavens like Moses,  you cry out:

"What the bleep am I supposed to eat NOW?!" 

Enter your new, favorite Passover protein: quinoa.

Quinoa (a starchy seed that originated in the Andes) packs a nutritional wallop as it contains all nine essential amino acids, making it a complete protein--the only one you can get if you're a vegetarian on Passover. Quinoa also provides the bulk and protein to this Passover friendly meal.  My guinea pig friend Justin was kind enough to taste test this with me and gave it the seal of approval. So, without further ado:


 Italian Stuffed Cabbage Rolls
Serves 3-4

1 cup of chopped onions
2 tbsp of minced garlic
1 tbsp of olive oil
1.5 cups of roughly chopped carrots
2 roughly chopped zucchini
I can of artichoke hearts in water (drained)
1/2 cup red wine
1/4 cup tamari or balsamic vinegar
1 cup of cooked quinoa
1.5 cans of no salt added tomato sauce
Italian seasoning/ red pepper flakes/ salt and pepper--to taste
1/4  cup Vegan Parmesan or nutritional yeast (optional)
1 medium cabbage
1 cup of shredded mozzarella style cheeze (dairy cheese is also fine)
(for non-Passover occasions, ground seitan, tofu, white beans would work really well in this dish.  Meat eaters, feel free to add 1cup of ground meat)  

Preheat oven to 375

In a food processor, pulse the chopped carrots, zucchini and artichokes until fine and let sit while you work on the cabbage.  For the cabbage:  peel the leaves from the cabbage.  I find that it's best to cut against the stalk near the base of the cabbage and pull the cabbage leaf apart from there (instead of trying to disconnect the leaf from the top of the cabbage and potentially tearing the leaf.  Peel at least 8 leaves (the recipe I made included six rolls, but peel two extra leaves just in case you get a very small leaf or you need an extra as a back-up).

In a pot of boiling water, submerge the leaves two at a time for about a minute, or until slightly tender.  Then, drop the leaves in ice water (or very cold water) to stop cooking and let sit on a baking sheet.  In a large saute pan, saute the onion and garlic in the tbsp of oil until translucent. Add the vegetable mixture and saute for a couple of minutes.  Add the red wine, tamari/balsamic vinegar, and salt and pepper to the mixture.  Let the mixture reduce (this is when you could add the seitan/tofu/meat).  Add half a can of tomato sauce to the stuffing mixture, as well as the Italian spices and red pepper flakes.  Let reduce.  

Add three ladles of the mixture into a stock pot and simmer with the can of tomato sauce.  Add the parm/yeast and season as needed (I like to add a little bit more Italian seasoning and pepper flakes here). Let simmer on low. 

Add the cup of cooked quinoa to the saute pan mixture and simmer until most of the excess liquid is gone.  Add 1/2 cup of cheeze/cheese.

Fill the cabbage leaves with the stuffing and wrap the leaves as you would a burrito.  Put each roll into a lightly greased casserole dish.  Top with the stockpot sauce and remaining cheeze/cheese.

Bake covered for 20 minutes and uncovered for 10 minutes.  Once baked, let sit for 10 minutes (the hardest part!)

Warning:  Your home will smell crazy delicious. It will drive you, your friends, your co-inhabitants, and your pets crazy.   Sorry--not sorry. 

Happy Eating!

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