A new friend of mine told me the other day, while we were chatting about food, how much she enjoys cabbage. That in the past she went on a cabbage spree and I believe she said she ate it almost daily… that’s too much cabbage for me. I like cabbage, but I don’t care for the smell of it. I do however love sauerkraut, eating something fermented such as sauerkraut before a meal (especially a heavy one) is a super awesome idea! Sauerkraut contains probiotics due to the fermentation thus aiding in digestion. It took a while for me to fully introduce fermented cabbage into my diet because the sodium content is outrageous… but a fork full before dinner doesn’t put me over the edge.
When I was little, going to my Guido and Baba’s house was always very exciting…. my baba always had an incredible amount of food waiting for us. Perogies… cabbage rolls.. breads.. meats.. All kinds of things. I remember standing at the head of the table one evening before dinner, looking down at all the food and thinking the table must stretch when we placed dishes down on it…… it never looked so long when everything had been cleared. Her cabbage rolls were one of my favorite things… okay maybe tied with the perogies… the cabbage itself was always such a beautiful bright green. I always chose my seat on the never-ending-table… right next to them. Baba’s rolls were so simple, I honestly think not much more than white rice and seasoning went into them. White rice and unfermented cabbage… little bright green rolls, lined up nicely in a dish and served with…. wait for it… ketchup.
Now that I am older and have a culinary imagination of my own…. I make a different sort of cabbage roll. A healthier twist on hers. Replacing the ketchup with loads of roasted garlic and tomatoes, vegan sausage, and the white rice with red volcano and Alberta grown wild rice….
Hold up – Vegan sausage? I know…. it doesn’t exactly sound exciting.. typically it doesn’t excite me either. All the bad press about soy (unless it too.. is fermented), all of the limp lifeless looking veggie wieners… these Field Roast ones are something different. These sausages are made with “grain meat” – wheat gluten. Lucky for me, I’m not celiac… I just prefer to cook without wheat. These little babies are my exception. Combination of gluten, potatoes, eggplant, peppers… they are delicious!
Next Generation Cabbage Rolls
7 or 8 Whole Tomatoes
3 Full Heads of Garlic
1 Head of Cabbage
1 Cup of Wild Rice
1/2 Cup Red Volcano Rice
2 Cups of Water
2 Field Roast Sausage Links (I used Italian to match up with the roasted garlic)
Drizzle of Olive Oil
Salt & Fresh Pepper
First things first….. Garlic. Slice the top off of two of the heads of garlic – keep the skin on. Save the tiny top pieces, squeeze them out of the peel and toss them in a baking dish. Drizzle each head with olive oil, and wrap up into two individual foil packets. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 30-40 minutes. Remove from the oven, but keep inside the foil.
Now, the tomatoes… Once the garlic has been roasted, turn the oven down to 350. Slice the tomatoes in half and toss them with the garlic tops into the glass baking dish. Peel the third head of garlic and chop all cloves. Add half the chopped garlic to the baking dish and put the other half aside. Add a tiny bit of water to the dish (you could use oil or butter also, I prefer to bake with water) so the garlic doesn’t stick and burn to the bottom, sprinkle a bit of salt and a nice big grind of pepper. Bake in the oven for an hour. You don’t want them to be disintegrating, but you want them to be soft enough to melt apart when squeezed. Transfer them to a pot and leave them for now. Don’t put the dish in the sink or dishwasher! You’re going to use it again – it has delicious juices to be soaked up.
By now…. you’re basically going to be bathing in delicious smells. Roasted garlic and tomatoes are so fragrant! Absolutely mouth watering.
While the tomatoes are cooking; add the remaining garlic, both types of rice, and water to a pot. Bring it up to a boil, add some pepper (I love love love fresh pepper… so I added a lot) and them turn it down to a simmer for about half an hour. Check it now and then to make sure the water isn’t cooking down too quickly – you don’t want to burn the rice to the pot! Once the rice is ready, add the roasted garlic and the oil from the packet. Stir to coat the rice.
Now for the cabbage….. you’re going to want to core it. Stick a sharp knife into the base and make a nice, fairly deep incision, repeat around the core making a box shape.
Now, fill a fresh pot with water, once it’s rolling – add the whole head of cabbage. This will soften up the remaining stems and make the leaves nicely pliable. The top leaves will almost instantly begin to soften and pull apart from the head. Using tongs, get them out of the pot and place them onto your work surface. Now it’s very important not to over boil the cabbage or you will end up with a sulfur smelling stinky wilty cabbage mess.
Once everything is ready, start filling and rolling! Put a small scoop (relative to how large your cabbage leaves are… mine were quite small) in the middle of the leaf and roll it up starting at the soft end, fastening the sides and finishing where the stem is.
Place the roll stem side down in the dish you roasted the tomatoes in, line them up nicely and feel free to lean them against each other if need be.
Heat the oven to 400. Turn your attention back to the tomatoes, fire up the stove and smoosh those roasted beauties, they should burst with juicy amazingness. Get the pot hot enough that the tomato juices start to release and steam off, add the sausage. Gently pour the tomatoes and sausage over the cabbage rolls and bake in the oven for 20 minutes.