First off, it’s near physically impossible to take an appetizing-looking photo of a cabbage roll, so I apologize. Second, I normally make these in the slow cooker and this time chose to make them in the oven, a method I’m not entirely sure I prefer. But, caveats aside, they’re a delicious alternative to meat-filled cabbage rolls, and if you’re averse to the whole cabbage-roll thing (which I completely understand; when I first encountered them a few years ago, I thought they were the most disgusting thing I’d ever seen, but have since grown to appreciate and even love them), the filling on its own makes a great salad or side dish.
As below it makes 4 servings (on average, depending on how many useable leaves you get from your cabbage). Recipe adapted from Cooking Light.
• 1 head cabbage, cored (try to get one that doesn’t look gnarled or misshapen; it’ll have more usable leaves): $1
• 1 cup dry whole grains: farro, barley, oat groats, and rye berries all work (I used a combination of farro and rye berries): 55 cents
• 1/2 cup currants: 60 cents
• 2 T pine nuts, toasted: $1.30
• 3-6 oz. feta (however much comes in one package): $2.20
• 1 large onion, chopped: 25 cents
• 2 T oil: 6 cents
• 1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes: $1.40
• 1 T cider vinegar: 5 cents
• 2 T chopped parsley (garden): $0
• 1/2 cup apple juice or cider (I have little packets of powdered cider I can use on demand. They last forever; look for them in the juice aisle): 20 cents
• Salt & pepper: 2 cents
TOTAL: $7.63/3 = $1.91/serving
Combine the grains with about 3 cups water and a pinch of salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook until soft but still slightly chewy, about 45 minutes.
Meanwhile, steam the cabbage for about 8 minutes, until leaves are pliable (I used a tall saucepot with a vegetable steamer insert.) Remove it and let it cool.
Carefully peel off each leaf and cut off the thickest part of the rib. Keep going until you have no more useable leaves. You should get around 9-12 decent ones.
Toast the pine nuts and chop the parsley, if you haven’t already. In a medium bowl, combine the crushed tomatoes with the apple cider or juice and vinegar. Season to taste.
When the grains are finished, drain them.
Heat the oil in a large sauté pan or skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and a pinch of salt. Cook until onion is translucent, about 5-6 minutes. Add the currants, parsley, pine nuts, and grains.
Remove from heat and stir in the feta. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Preheat oven to 400 F.
Place a cabbage leaf on a cutting board or clean counter. Mound about 1/3 cup filling in the center, fold in the sides of the leaf, and roll it up. Place seam side down in a 9×13 baking dish. I have no photos of this process because I freely admit it was kind of a disaster. No matter how many times I’ve done it, it largely depends on the cabbage, and this cabbage did not have good leaves for rolls. If this happens to you, feel free to just kind of curl them around the filling as best you can, as below.
Pour the tomato sauce over the cabbage rolls and bake, uncovered, until tomato sauce is bubbling, about 45 minutes. Alternately, you can stack them in a slow cooker and cook on high for 2 hours.