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Cooler days call for warm, baked comfort foods. That doesn’t have to mean unhealthy, though.
On my last trip to the farmers market I found huge, gorgeous heads of cabbage — perfect for stuffing. Paired with fresh chestnuts, this farro and quinoa stuffing is my plant-based take on an old favorite.
Chestnut and grain-stuffed cabbage rolls
6-7 whole chestnuts (or 1 cup chestnuts purchased in a jar or pouch)
1 large head cabbage
1 cup uncooked quinoa
1 cup uncooked farro
½ cup vegetable broth, divided
4 ounces mushrooms, chopped
½ large onion, peeled and chopped
1 sweet red bell pepper, deseeded and chopped
1 medium-spicy pepper, as hot as you like
¼ teaspoon powdered sage
Salt and pepper
2 large cans (28 ounces each) peeled tomatoes
½ large onion, peeled and chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
1 ½ tablespoons sweetening agent (such as maple syrup, honey, sugar)
You’ve got some work to do first, but preheat the oven to 375 degrees F if you’re a fast prep cook.
Prepare chestnuts: Since I‘ve messed up two batches of chestnuts trying to roast them, I found it much easier to boil them for this recipe. (If you’d like to see a picture-perfect tutorial about how to roast chestnuts, check out this from Bloatal Recall.) Cut an X into the flat side of the chestnuts and boil them in a pot of water over a medium high heat for about 20 minutes. You’ll know they’re done when you can squeeze the nut and break up the meat easily. (Rinse the nuts in cold water first so you don‘t burn yourself!) Then open the nuts and scoop out the flesh. You’ll need 1 cup of crumbled chestnut meat. If you’re using prepared nuts, chop them into small pieces before measuring.
Prepare cabbage leaves: Thoroughly wash the cabbage. Make a generous cut around the core on the bottom to free the largest leaves. Place the entire cabbage head into a pot with several inches of boiling water. Cover and steam for several minutes, removing outer leaves as they soften (don’t let the leaves get too mushy). You may need to remove the head from the pot so you can peel the leaves back gently. You don’t want to rip them to pieces as you need whole leaves to wrap. Repeat steaming procedure until the leaves lose their color and are too small to roll. Set leaves aside.
Prepare tomato sauce: Heat several tablespoons of vegetable broth in a sauté pan. Add 3 cloves chopped garlic and ½ onion and sauté until vegetables are soft. Add more broth or water as you need it to keep vegetables from burning. Once vegetables are soft, place them in a blender. Add one can of whole peeled tomatoes at a time, blending vegetables with tomatoes until smooth. Pour tomato mixture into a large sauce pan and add Italian seasoning, sweetening and salt to taste. Simmer to thicken while you finish stuffing the cabbage rolls.
Prepare stuffing: Cook quinoa and farro as directed on the package. Use slightly less water than the instructions call for; you’ll be adding it back in a minute. Meanwhile, sauté onion, mushrooms and peppers in vegetable broth until slightly softened. Add cooked quinoa, farro, 1 cup crumbled chestnuts, sage and salt and pepper to taste. Splash in a few tablespoons of vegetable broth and let the mixture simmer a few minutes. Then turn off heat and set aside.
Assemble cabbage rolls: Place one open leaf, stem side toward you, on a flat work surface. Scoop in about ½ cup stuffing mixture — more or less depending on the size of the leaf — and form it into a rectangular shape at the bottom edge of the leaf. Fold the side of each leaf toward the center, covering the stuffing mixture. Rolling from the bottom, compact the mixture inside the leaf to form a nice, solid roll. Think about how you’d roll up a sleeping bag here. Place each roll into a baking dish, loose edge down.
Once all rolls have been placed into the baking dish, pour some of the tomato mixture over the top. It’s okay to be generous, but don’t completely fill the dish with sauce. The cabbage will release liquid as it cooks.
Cover the dish with foil or a lid and bake for 1 hour at 375 degrees. At the end of the hour, remove the covering and allow the rolls to brown up slightly. They won’t brown much, but this step will help the sauce to thicken up again.
Serve hot cabbage rolls with extra sauce and mashed potatoes. Yum!