Making It Modern: Stuffed Cabbage
Welcome to a new series I am calling, “Making It Modern”. I thought it would be fun to take vintage recipes and tweak them to make them more delicious and healthier for the modern palate. Being as it is still 1920’s week, I am starting with three recipes from this decade. The first is stuffed cabbage and the second is a nut and asparagus salad with a chive dressing. You can see the original recipe for the stuffed cabbage here, for the salad here, and for the dressing here.
Let’s begin with the stuffed cabbage because that takes the longest to prepare and cook. First of all, I have a tip: When making any stuffed cabbage, freeze the cabbage overnight and then let it thaw the day you are preparing it. This softens the leaves and makes them pliable and that way you don’t have to stink up your kitchen by boiling the cabbage. Once the cabbage is defrosted you can just cut out the core and carefully peel each leaf off the head.
For the mixture I updated it by using ground turkey and instead of a cup of white rice I used 1/3 cup of quick cooking barley. The barley is a whole grain and is healthier and has more fiber than white rice. I also like the nutty taste it imparts on the stuffing. The reason I used turkey is because my husband doesn’t eat beef. I also omitted the cinnamon. Be sure not to mix everything too much because the more you mix any ground meat, the denser it becomes once cooked.
To fill the cabbage leaves I cut out the stalk, which left me with two large leaves. For the outer leaves I cut those into fourths, then I spooned a small amount of the filling on one side and then rolled it up like a burrito. The recipe said to make the rolls as thick as a finger, which was almost impossible. I made them a little bigger- around two fingers. Once I got to the smaller inner cabbage leaves I used 1/2 a leaf instead of a 1/4 of a leaf.
Once I was finished stuffing the cabbage, I carefully placed the rolls in a strainer pot and filled it with water. Then I brought the water to a boil and turned it down to a slow simmer for 45 minutes. The recipe called for hot water to be used, but I didn’t bother with this and they turned out perfectly. I was kind of surprised at how many recipes from this time period were boiled or cooked in the oven, as opposed to being cooked in a pan, and I mentioned this to my mother. Her thought was the stoves must of been difficult to regulate and therefore the cooking options were quite limited. I have no idea if my mother was correct in her assumption, but it made sense to me.
As a side dish I decided to do a riff on a boiled egg stuffed with asparagus and nuts. Though the original recipe sounded delish, it was just too much work for a regular weekday meal. So I deconstructed it and turned it into a kind of salad by roasting the asparagus at 375 for about 20 minutes after I had drizzled them in olive oil on them and sprinkled them with salt.
Then I chopped up some hazelnuts along with a few boiled eggs and sprinkled them over the roasted asparagus. On top of that went the chive dressing, which I used exactly as printed- no updates needed!
Isn’t it pretty? And it tasted divine. So easy for a side dish, and yet it looks practically gourmet.
Coming back to the cabbage, the original recipe called for a butter sauce, but I decided it would be a bit healthier to try an olive oil based dressing. I had pinned this “magic sauce” recipe from 101 Cookbooks ages ago, but had never bothered to try it. I thought this would be the perfect topping and I happened to have all the ingredients in my kitchen. It turns out the name describes the dressing perfectly. It is, indeed, magic! I followed the recipe exactly and it was absolutely delectable. The stuffed cabbage is a bit on the plain side and this just elevated it into something special. I would seriously consider serving this to guests, not just keep it as a casual weeknight dish- except for one thing- it takes a while to make the stuffed cabbage.
And there you have it! This is an updated 1920’s meal that is full of veggies and protein and was an incredibly satisfying. As I mentioned before, I probably wont be making stuffed cabbage anytime soon, only because of the time it took to make each roll, but I am for sure adding the roasted asparagus and the magic sauce to my repertoire.
1 head of cabbage, frozen overnight and defrosted
1 pound ground turkey
1 onion minced
1/3 cup quick cooking barley
1.5 tsp salt
freshly ground pepper to taste
Mix the turkey, minced onion, barley, salt, egg, and pepper in a bowl. Be sure to just incorporate the ingredients and don’t over mix. Carefully peel off a cabbage leaf and cut out the spine. This creates two halves which you should then cut in half creating four pieces of cabbage leaf. Spoon a small amount of the turkey mixture on one edge and roll.
Once the rolls have been made, carefully place them in a strainer pot and then fill with water to just cover the rolls. Let the pot come to a boil then cover, lower the heat, and simmer for 45 minutes. Let cool and serve with Magic Sauce (recipe here).
Roasted Asparagus Sprinkled With Eggs & Nuts And Tossed In A Chive Dressing
1 bunch of asparagus
2-3 hard boiled eggs chopped
1/4 cup hazelnuts chopped
Preheat the oven to 375. Chop the woody stems off of the asparagus and lay in a roasting pan. Drizzle with some olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 20 minutes, turning every so often, until soft. Lay on serving dish and then sprinkle with the chopped egg and hazelnuts. Drizzle with the chive dressing (seen underneath) and serve.
1920’s Chive Dressing
3 Tbsp oil. I used olive oil
1 Tbsp vinegar. I used white wine vinegar
1 Tbsp minced chives
1/4 tsp paprika
pinch of salt and pepper to taste
Put all ingredients in a jar, screw on top and shake. Pour over the roasted asparagus and serve.