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THE CONFIDENT COOK

Recipe: Familiar stuffed cabbage rolls for Passover are filled with beef and cauliflower rice

Passover Stuffed Cabbage Rolls with Cauliflower Rice
Passover Stuffed Cabbage Rolls with Cauliflower RiceSheryl Julian for The Boston Globe

Makes 12 or enough to serve 6

Everyone who cooks for a Seder or a dinner during the Passover week, which begins the evening of April 8, makes a big effort to present something special. During isolation that takes on new meaning. Most of us have plenty of time for an endless cooking project before the holiday. These stuffed cabbage rolls might fit the bill. Once made with scraps of meat from other cuts, today's filling uses ground beef and rice. But since many Ashkenazi Jews will not eat rice during Passover, these are made with cauliflower rice. Just pulse cauliflower florets in a food processor until they resemble rice grains. Add them to ground beef with matzo meal, eggs, chopped onion, and a grated carrot. The cumbersome part of stuffed cabbage is the cabbage itself. Core it and dunk it into a big pot of boiling water to loosen the outer leaves. Pull them off and dunk the head again until you have a dozen leaves. Any with tears or the smaller ones go into the cooking pot to line the bottom and make a pillow for the rolls. Then whir a can of tomatoes (it doesn't matter if they're whole or chopped) to form a chunky sauce to mix with vinegar and brown sugar to get sweet-and-sour tastes, or use ready-made tomato sauce. Layer the rolls in the pot with the sauce, send it into the oven for an hour and a half, and the whole house will smell like grandma's been cooking. You're faced with a sinkful of bowls and equipment to wash and what you have to show for it is one of the world's most homely dishes. But one with wonderful, familiar flavors and a comforting taste at the moment you need it most.

1 head green cabbage
¼ small cauliflower, cut into florets
1pound ground beef
¼cup matzo meal
2 eggs
1 onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, grated
1teaspoon salt, and more to taste
½teaspoon black pepper, and more to taste
1 can or jar (28 ounces) whole peeled tomatoes or chopped tomatoes or tomato sauce
2tablespoons olive oil
¼cup cider vinegar or red wine vinegar
½cup light or dark brown sugar

1. Set the oven at 350 degrees. Have on hand a deep flameproof casserole with a tight-fitting lid. Cut a piece of parchment paper the shape of the pan, to fit comfortably inside it.

2. Bring a soup pot of water to a boil. Core the cabbage deeply to loosen several layers of leaves. Submerge the whole head in the water and let it cook for 2 minutes. Use 2 large spoons to lift out the cabbage. When it is cool enough to handle, peel off the outer leaves. When they become too hard to remove, immerse the cabbage again for 2 minutes, lift it out, and remove more leaves. You need 12 leaves without tears. Use the leaves with tears to line the bottom of the casserole or use the smaller leaves to do this. Cut out the hard triangular stem in center of each leaf. (Use those and the remaining cabbage to make soup for another day.)

3. For the filling: In a food processor, pulse the cauliflower florets until the pieces are about the size of rice. Scrape down the sides of the work bowl once or twice. Tip the cauliflower into a bowl. Add the ground beef, matzo meal, eggs, onion, carrot, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.

4. For the sauce: If using whole or chopped tomatoes, whir them in a blender until the mixture is chunky. In a skillet, heat the oil. Add the chunky tomatoes or tomato sauce, vinegar, sugar, and a generous pinch of salt and pepper.

5. Place a spoonful of the meat mixture (about 1/3 cup) in the center of each leaf. For the larger leaves, use a heaping 1/3 cup. Starting at the core end, roll up the bottom of the leaf to cover the meat, fold in the sides, then continue rolling into an oval. Continue until all the leaves and meat are used. Pack one layer of the rolls in the casserole, seams down. Add half the sauce. Add another layer of rolls and the remaining sauce. Pour in enough cold water to just cover the rolls.

6. Set the pan over high heat. Bring to a boil and turn off the heat. Cover with the parchment paper, then the lid. Transfer to the oven.

7. Cook for 1 1/2 hours, or until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the rolls registers 160 degrees. Taste the sauce for seasoning and add more salt, pepper, vinegar, or sugar, if you like. Serve the rolls with sauce spooned over them.

Sheryl Julian

Makes 12 or enough to serve 6

Everyone who cooks for a Seder or a dinner during the Passover week, which begins the evening of April 8, makes a big effort to present something special. During isolation that takes on new meaning. Most of us have plenty of time for an endless cooking project before the holiday. These stuffed cabbage rolls might fit the bill. Once made with scraps of meat from other cuts, today's filling uses ground beef and rice. But since many Ashkenazi Jews will not eat rice during Passover, these are made with cauliflower rice. Just pulse cauliflower florets in a food processor until they resemble rice grains. Add them to ground beef with matzo meal, eggs, chopped onion, and a grated carrot. The cumbersome part of stuffed cabbage is the cabbage itself. Core it and dunk it into a big pot of boiling water to loosen the outer leaves. Pull them off and dunk the head again until you have a dozen leaves. Any with tears or the smaller ones go into the cooking pot to line the bottom and make a pillow for the rolls. Then whir a can of tomatoes (it doesn't matter if they're whole or chopped) to form a chunky sauce to mix with vinegar and brown sugar to get sweet-and-sour tastes, or use ready-made tomato sauce. Layer the rolls in the pot with the sauce, send it into the oven for an hour and a half, and the whole house will smell like grandma's been cooking. You're faced with a sinkful of bowls and equipment to wash and what you have to show for it is one of the world's most homely dishes. But one with wonderful, familiar flavors and a comforting taste at the moment you need it most.

1 head green cabbage
¼ small cauliflower, cut into florets
1pound ground beef
¼cup matzo meal
2 eggs
1 onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, grated
1teaspoon salt, and more to taste
½teaspoon black pepper, and more to taste
1 can or jar (28 ounces) whole peeled tomatoes or chopped tomatoes or tomato sauce
2tablespoons olive oil
¼cup cider vinegar or red wine vinegar
½cup light or dark brown sugar

1. Set the oven at 350 degrees. Have on hand a deep flameproof casserole with a tight-fitting lid. Cut a piece of parchment paper the shape of the pan, to fit comfortably inside it.

2. Bring a soup pot of water to a boil. Core the cabbage deeply to loosen several layers of leaves. Submerge the whole head in the water and let it cook for 2 minutes. Use 2 large spoons to lift out the cabbage. When it is cool enough to handle, peel off the outer leaves. When they become too hard to remove, immerse the cabbage again for 2 minutes, lift it out, and remove more leaves. You need 12 leaves without tears. Use the leaves with tears to line the bottom of the casserole or use the smaller leaves to do this. Cut out the hard triangular stem in center of each leaf. (Use those and the remaining cabbage to make soup for another day.)

3. For the filling: In a food processor, pulse the cauliflower florets until the pieces are about the size of rice. Scrape down the sides of the work bowl once or twice. Tip the cauliflower into a bowl. Add the ground beef, matzo meal, eggs, onion, carrot, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.

4. For the sauce: If using whole or chopped tomatoes, whir them in a blender until the mixture is chunky. In a skillet, heat the oil. Add the chunky tomatoes or tomato sauce, vinegar, sugar, and a generous pinch of salt and pepper.

5. Place a spoonful of the meat mixture (about 1/3 cup) in the center of each leaf. For the larger leaves, use a heaping 1/3 cup. Starting at the core end, roll up the bottom of the leaf to cover the meat, fold in the sides, then continue rolling into an oval. Continue until all the leaves and meat are used. Pack one layer of the rolls in the casserole, seams down. Add half the sauce. Add another layer of rolls and the remaining sauce. Pour in enough cold water to just cover the rolls.

6. Set the pan over high heat. Bring to a boil and turn off the heat. Cover with the parchment paper, then the lid. Transfer to the oven.

7. Cook for 1 1/2 hours, or until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the rolls registers 160 degrees. Taste the sauce for seasoning and add more salt, pepper, vinegar, or sugar, if you like. Serve the rolls with sauce spooned over them.Sheryl Julian


Sheryl Julian can be reached at sheryl.julian@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @sheryljulian.