Buckwheat-Almond Stuffed Cabbage Rolls
The nutty, earthy flavor of buckwheat and almonds makes a perfect filling for these vegetarian cabbage rolls, drenched in tangy tomato sauce.
The blanching method for removing the cabbage leaves may seem odd at first, but trust me, I learned it from a Polish grandmother who made many cabbage rolls. By blanching the leaves while still on the head, you eliminate the challenge of trying to remove the raw leaves without ripping them. Instead they slip off easily and are tender and easy to roll.
- 12 whole cabbage leaves (1 large cabbage)
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 2 stalks celery
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 medium carrots, chopped
- 1 cup buckwheat groats
- 1 teaspoon thyme
- 1 tablespoon basil
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
- 4 ounces chevre, optional
- 1/2 cup whole almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 28-ounce can tomato puree
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- Lightly oil a 9x13-inch baking pan. Preheat the oven to 400⁰F.
- Fill a pot large enough to hold the head of cabbage with as much water as you can while leaving enough room to add the cabbage, and bring the water to a boil. While the water heats, use a paring knife to trim the base of the cabbage just enough so that the leaves are no longer attached to the core. Once the water is boiling, add a generous teaspoon salt, and carefully place the trimmed head of cabbage into the water. Turn the heat down to a simmer, and cook for about three minute, while gently rolling the head of cabbage from side to side using a wooden spoon or spatula. Use a skimmer, a large strainer with a heat-proof handle or sturdy tongs to remove the cabbage from the pot, and transfer to a large bowl or colander to drain, cut-side down. Place drained cabbage on a cutting board, and carefully remove as many whole leaves as will come away easily from the head. If necessary, return the cabbage head to the water and repeat the process until you have 12 leaves. Drain and reserve the remaining cabbage for another use.
- Trim the thick stems out of the cabbage leaves, and let dry.
- For the filling, put a 2-quart pot on medium heat and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil, then add the celery, onion, and carrots. Sauté, stirring, for about five minutes, until the onion is golden. Add the buckwheat to the pan and stir until the buckwheat is hot, about 2 minutes. Add 1 1/2 cups water, thyme, basil, paprika and 1 teaspoon salt, and bring to a boil over high heat. Cover the pot and lower the heat to low. Cook, covered, for 20-25 minutes, until the water is absorbed. Take off the heat and stir in the chevre (if using) and almonds.
- For the sauce, heat the remaining olive oil in a large pot and sauté the garlic. Stir for a minute, then add the tomato puree, brown sugar and lemon juice, and remaining half teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer until thickened slightly, about 5 minutes.
- Place about 1/3 cup of the buckwheat filling in the center of each leaf, then fold both sides in and roll it up (like a burrito), tuck into the oiled pan. When all the rolls are in the pan, ladle the sauce over the rolls, to cover completely. Cover pan with foil.
- Bake for 30 minutes, until bubbly. Let cool on a rack for five minutes before serving.
These hearty rolls are delicious with a side of borscht or a creamy potato soup, and a crisp green salad.
351 calories, 13 g. fat, 0 mg. cholesterol, 1181 mg. sodium, 54 g. carbohydrate, 10 g. fiber, 12 g. protein