CSA Post: Vegan Cabbage rolls

Hello all, welcome to the 2015 CSA season in Laura’s cooking blog world. I’m quite late to the game here since I’ve been preoccupied with the drudgery of everyday work routine, hibernating from the heat and occasionally writing in my “society” blog. It’s been awhile since  I’ve been able to feel the tingling sensation of culinary inspiration in my bones but I’m finally ready for a comeback.

Last week we received a beautiful bounty in our CSA from Herbivor Farm, including kale, cucumbers, broccoli, zucchini and their unique cousins from outer space, the patty pan squash, scallions, sugar snap peas and of course, the man of the hour: Cabbage!

I dreamed up the obvious usage of this wonderful cruciferous vegetable: Cabbage rolls, or traditionally known in Poland as Golabki, galumki, halupki , galoopi and hippopotamus in several other  Eastern European countries and variations. There’s so many different variations and names on the internet that I can’t keep track of them all. I may have made a couple of those names up, but it’s really quite hard to tell.

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Laura’s vegan cabbage rolls: A simple name for a weeknight classic

None of that traditional name and recipe business matters because we’re going as far away from tradition as you can imagine in this vegan version. Us vegetarians are usually forced to reinvent recipes from meat-heavy cuisines in order to survive. And our versions are usually a lot healthier so you’re in very good hands. So, if you’re looking for a recipe that’s similar to your grandma’s, you’ll have to look elsewhere.

So, begin by washing the cabbage, removing some of the nasty looking leaves on it (if any) and removing the core at the bottom. Then fill a huge pot of water, add the cabbage and bring the water to a boil on medium- high heat.

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Turn the cabbage every 2-3 minutes and slowly remove the cooked leaves that appear cooked and easy to fall off. Place each leaf on a plate for later. This whole process should take about 10-15 minutes for you to have enough leaves cooked to use.

When you’re finished cooking the cabbage, slice it in half and roughly chop and dice up some of the leftovers to add to the sauce. Any remaining cabbage can be put away in the fridge and used for coleslaw or braised cabbage to accompany another meal.

Chop up some onion and garlic, and saute in oil until tender.

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Now it’s time to make the mixture. By now, you should have your lentils cooked (about 1 1/2 cup) and long grain wild rice ready to go. I forgot to mention this before, whoops! I used a teeny tiny bit of inspiration from my mom’s Americanized ground beef, rice and tomato sauce-based recipe that she used when I was growing up. I of course swapped the beef for brown lentils and used long grain wild rice.

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As you can see, I also added some extra chopped cabbage to the mixture. For the spices, I went all across the board: Some paprika of course, chili powder, oregano, salt and pepper and red pepper flakes.  Then I added  the cooked onion and garlic. I later stirred in a bit of the sauce to this mixture once it was done cooking to even things out.

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For the sauce, add a can of tomato sauce and simmer on low-medium heat. Add 1-2 tablespoons of tomato paste and stir in the chopped cabbage. Add salt and pepper, paprika, chili powder and dash of white vinegar. At this point I still wasn’t satisfied with the flavour and added a squeeze of dijon mustard and…drum roll.. just a pinch of adobo sauce. Gasp! Oh, the blasphemy! But I tasted it and it was perfect!  The goddess of culinary creation had to spoken to me. In a way, this method was actually more traditional because I didn’t meticulously measure and add the spices to the sauce, but instead added and tasted it as I went along. No written recipe involved. This is something that mothers and grandmothers from the old country do.

So now that the sauce is finished, you can get down to business and begin the assembly of the rolls. Or, you could have already started it by now, who am I to boss you around? It’s your kitchen. Firstly, trim the ribby vein of the cabbage leaves with a knife so they’re easier to roll.

You can also preheat your oven to 400 degrees. I figured I’d mention this before I forget and it’s too late. It wouldn’t be fun if you discovered an hour later that your oven hadn’t been on the whole time.

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Spoon 1/4-1/3 a cup of the filling in a leaf and roll up, folding the base of it up and over the filling until it’s covered. Make sure to fold the sides in so the goods don’t escape. Place each cabbage roll seam side down, side by side in a casserole dish.

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Spread the sauce over the rolls, cover with aluminum foil and bake for 45-50 minutes. Voila! Enjoy my friends.

Ingredients

1/2 onion, diced

2 cloves garlic

1 Head Cabbage

1 1/2 cup Brown Lentils

1 Cup long grain wild rice

1 Can tomato sauce

1-2 tbsp tomato paste

1/2 tbsp white vinegar

paprika, to taste

chili powder, to taste

oregano, to taste

red pepper flakes, to taste

salt and pepper, to taste

1 tsp dijon mustard, or to taste

Adobo sauce, a pinch to taste

That’s not bad for a girl of French Canadian descent who grew up seeing her grandma ‘s and great-grandma’s  handwritten recipes for Tourtiere (meat pie) on faded recipe cards in her mother’s recipe cabinet. We don’t specialize in cabbage rolls and pierogies in our family but we love to experiment and try new things and that means riffing on old favourites. That’s our tradition.

Happy cooking!

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CSA Post: Lentil stuffed peppers

I’m back, folks! After all the birthdays this month, a trip home to Plattsburgh and working more hours I finally snagged a free night to set aside for writing. Writing and cooking for you guys requires quite a bit of free time and concentration from all other worldly distractions.

So this week I bring you one of my personal favourites with the lovely bell peppers we got from Herbivor farm in our last CSA share two weeks ago.  Although they were a bit on the small side, I was able to put a spontaneous spin on my Sloppy Lentil recipe to create the miniature version of the weeknight classic.

Vegetarian Nutrition Factoid

Do not fear the size, these peppers were filling enough for a full meal. Due to the power protein in lentils ( 18 grams for one cup, 9 grams for 1/2 cup), two or three of these peppers will fill your belly and hold you over until the next morning. On the essential amino acid side of things, you could pair these with a small serving of brown rice if you are a big eater like my husband. That way, all your amino acid needs are met. If you had other grains or protein earlier in the day, don’t worry about it. You won’t DIE if you don’t get all your proteins packed into one meal. Just like you won’t die from NOT eating meat. The key is to just eat a balanced diet throughout the day. Personally, I was way too full to even think about rice.

Alright, enough of that. Let’s get to business! Grab the peppers, take out the membranes and slice them in half vertically. Sorry the picture turned out so dark, but you get the idea right? Okay. Place them in a baking dish lined with aluminum foil and set aside.

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Chop two or three scallions , a couple baby carrots(both from Herbivor), a bunch of cilantro (also from Herbivor, yay!) , half a red onion and two cloves of garlic.

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Add all your veggies to a frying pan, sauté on medium  heat for a few minutes. Crack open a can (or fresh if you so desire) of Fire-roasted diced tomatoes and add to the pan.  Add some chili powder, cumin and salt and pepper to taste.

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Once your taste buds are satisfied, stuff the peppers with the lentil filling, sprinkle some cheddar cheese on each and pop them in the oven for 20 minutes. Or until the cheese is melted and the peppers are all bubbly and desirable. Yum!

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Enjoy, my friends!

Ingredients

* 7 Bell peppers, sliced vertically in half

*1-2 Cups Brown Lentils

* 2 cloves Garlic

* 1 can Fire-Roasted Diced Tomatoes

* 2-3 Scallions, chopped

* 1 bunch fresh Cilantro

* 1/4 cup Baby carrots, diced

* 1/2 Red onion, diced

*Chili powder

* Cumin

* Dijon mustard (optional), to taste

* Salt and pepper

* 1 cup Brown or Wild rice (optional)

 

 

 

 

Lentil and Sweet Potato Chili

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I made this divine little heart-warmer sometime last month during the most brutal stretch of -30 degree weather all winter. We stayed inside, curled up under a blanket and devoured this stuff. It’s safe to say it did its job.

I decided to whip this up one afternoon when I found I had 3 bags of dried lentils to use up and a desire to have dinner completed quickly so Mark wouldn’t starve to death when he got home. I decided to make an Indian-inspired chili, rather than the typical Mexican version, and picked up some sweet potatoes to go with the lentils. The presence of garam masala, cumin, and coriander also gives this update of the vegetarian classic a boost.

You can also swap the sweet potatoes for butternut squash and pair it with kale, chick peas or black beans instead of lentils. The world is your oyster.

*1 cup dried brown lentils, cooked and drained

* 1 onion, diced

* 2 cloves garlic

* 2 sweet potatoes, roasted or cooked in the microwave and chopped into cubes

*1 cup vegetable broth

* 1 can diced or plum tomatoes

*1 tsp coriander (crushed seeds or ground)

* tbsp cumin

* 1 tsp garam masala

* 1/2 tbsp chili powder

* salt and pepper to taste

Cook the lentils according to the directions on the bag and drain. Pierce the potatoes with a fork and place them in the microwave and cook them for 10 minutes or until soft and tender. You can also roast them in the oven, which is more socially acceptable, but I had a hungry husband on his way home who skipped his lunch so I had to be quick about it.

Once the potatoes are cooked, scoop them out of their skins and chop them into bite-sized cubes or chunks. Heat the oil in the pot and add the garlic and onions. Once they’re translucent, add the vegetable broth and tomatoes and lower the heat.  Let it simmer for a few minutes and add the lentils and sweet potatoes. Add the cumin, garam masala, coriander and chili powder to taste. Keep adding the spices and stirring until it gets the desired taste: Preferably a sweet, curried spicy flavour.

This would be wonderful served with a side of Naan bread (of course we didn’t have any) or Basmati rice. Voila! Enjoy, and feel this chili warm up your soul!