Stuffed cabbage with an Italian inflection
Mario Batali presents a stuffed cabbage recipe that is nothing like the one your grandmother made.
Cruciferous is a designation that comprises the Brassica members of the cabbage family, including cavolo nero, mustard and turnip greens, along with cauliflower and collards, plus radishes, horseradish and arugula. In addition to their pungently delicious properties, cancer researchers have found that high consumption of cruciferous vegetables may be effective in the prevention of certain types of cancer. A serving of cruciferous vegetables gives every meal a healthy dose of vitamin C.
One potential downside: cooking cruciferous vegetables, cabbage included, can tend to get a little malodorous or even stinky in the gassy way. The trick is to do the initial blanch when the kids are at school or your roommates are at work — or, like I do, late at night when everyone is asleep with the windows wide open. The dirty work done, I can finish the process and final cooking when they get home.
In general, you don't have to sneak vegetables into your family's diets, you just have to change the way they look and the way they feel. This dish looks like a stuffed lasagna. Start by forming a nice paste, or composto (i.e. a vegetarian stuffing), then use the blanched leafy greens and roll it like a burrito.
Stuffed cabbage may sound like a dish your grandmother imported from the old country. But really it just needs a face-lift, or, better yet, an Italian inflection. In the region of Liguria, on the northwest coast near the border of France, they prepare stuffed cabbage with a vegetarian stuffing, like in this recipe, and serve it as either an antipasto or a light main course.
When cooking, cruciferous vegetables are often interchangeable. If green cabbage isn't available, substitute another cabbage like savoy or another fibrous leafy green like cavolo nero or turnip tops. Make more than you think you will need; this dish is a guaranteed hit and is just as good the next day cool from the fridge as a sneaky, luxurious lunch.
James Beard Award-winner Mario Batali, a Seattle-area native, is a chef, restaurateur, author and TV personality. His latest book is "Molto Batali."