Thursday, February 28, 2013

Slovenian Dinner Week 47: Stuffed Cabbage Low Carb Makeover: Beef-Cauliflower Filling

Stuffed Cabbage Makeover: Beef-Cauliflower Filling
Green Salad

Stuffed cabbage was the first dish I tackled, back in January of 2012, when I launched my year of Slovenian cooking.  I was happy with the result. The next time, I planned to make the filling more highly seasoned—and to cook the cabbage rolls on a bed of sauerkraut.

Suddenly, it was December. My year of ethnic cooking was in the home stretch, and I still hadn’t gotten around to trying stuffed cabbage again.  But now I had another agenda:  how to do healthy makeovers.

For a healthy version of stuffed cabbage, I figured on skipping the pork and using just beef. But what to do about the added starch in the filling?  I could substitute buckwheat for the rice, as I’d done with my stuffed peppers makeover. But this time I wanted to go even lower carb.

So I did an Internet search and discovered a fascinating alternative to rice: finely diced cauliflower.  I found plenty of examples, including two or three recipes for meat fillings with cauliflower instead of the usual rice or bread crumbs.  What an intriguing idea! I already knew that pureed cauliflower worked well as a mashed potato substitute, but I'd never come across the idea of using it in place of rice.

The recipes I found used used raw cauliflower, chopped or grated, in the meat filling.  I figured I would go one better.  I would brown the cauliflower bits with the onions and garlic, to reduce some of the moisture and make it harder and more rice-like.

I made a few other changes in my original stuffed cabbage recipe. To make the filling spicier,  I increased the onion, garlic, salt, pepper, and paprika.   I decided to skip the fresh mint and the spoonful of crushed tomatoes. As planned, I used sauerkraut instead of cabbage to line the pan.   Finally, I decided to make the dish in the oven instead of on top of  the stove.

For the result, read on.

Stuffed Cabbage Makeover with Beef-Cauliflower Filling

1 c. onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 T. olive oil
1 c. cauliflower florets, finely chopped
2 t. salt
1 t. pepper
1-1/2 t. paprika
1/2 c. fresh parsley, chopped

1-1/2 lb.ground beef
1 egg, beaten

1 large head green cabbage

beef broth and crushed tomatoes, mixed, to make about 3 cups of liquid
salt and pepper to taste

For filling:  Brown onion and garlic in oil.  Add cauliflower florets and brown, then add seasonings, parsley and mix.  Let cool.  Mix in beef and egg.

For cabbage: Cut out core of cabbage.  Cover in hot water and boil for about 5 minutes.  Drain and separate leaves.

To make the rolls:  Cut out the tough rib of each cabbage leaf.  Place a portion of meat on the leaf.  Roll up securely, envelope style.  Secure with toothpicks.

Put a layer of sauerkraut in the bottom of large greased oven-proof dish.  Put cabbage rolls on top, packing tightly.  Add liquid, almost to cover.  Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 1 hour.

The verdict:  Pretty good.  The filling was still a little mild.  Next time, I will go back to using tomatoes and maybe the mint, as I did originally.  And I might add some seasoning to the  tomato sauce, too. No, cauliflower does not provide the same firm texture as using rice—or for, that matter, buckwheat groats.  But it is a viable alternative when you are cutting carbs.

Who says Slovenian food can't be healthy?