This summer has been unbearably hot and humid as of late. I like the heat, but when coupled with this extreme humidity it has been almost crippling. I also only have air conditioning in two rooms of my house, leaving the other rooms sweltering when I walk through the door. The humidity practically smacks you in the face. I don’t know about you, but the last thing I want to do on such a hot and humid day is keep my oven on.
Enter: the slow cooker.
I am completely obsessed with my crockpot. I received it as a gift for my bridal shower two years ago, and I have probably used it (at least) once a week since then. It is perfect for busy work days, when I just toss some ingredients in and let it work its magic. Boom, a home cooked meal that is ready to be devoured once I get home. Another big perk to using the crockpot is that it doesn’t heat up the house. And that is something I definitely did not want to do.
But what was I going to make?
I met a friend for lunch this past Saturday, and on my drive home I passed this amazing little Greek restaurant that I go to fairly often during the school year. My favorite dish of theirs is their take on stuffed cabbage. They fill the leaves with the traditional meat, rice, and herbs – but then they put their own twist on it by adding pine nuts, feta, and raisins. To make it even more delicious, they cook it in avgolemono sauce. Sheer perfection.
I also realized that I have never, ever, made stuffed cabbage before. There’s a first time for everything, right!?
I decided to blend flavors from my favorite Greek stuffed cabbage with flavors from the traditional stuffed cabbage you can get at the corner deli, and the result was just wonderful.
sweet & sour slow cooker cabbage rolls
You will need the following:
1 head of green cabbage (medium to large)
1 lb of ground beef
1/2 cup of cooked brown rice
1 finely chopped white onion
1 clove of garlic, minced
3 egg whites, beaten
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 bunch of fresh italian flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
1/3 – 1/2 cup golden raisins
1 28oz can of tomato sauce (unseasoned)
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp light brown sugar
The first thing you should do is combine the can of tomato sauce with the lemon juice and brown sugar. Stir these until completely combined, and set aside in a bowl. You will be revisiting this sweet & sour tomato sauce at the very end.
Now for the meat mixture. In a large bowl, combine the beef, garlic, onion, salt, pepper, egg whites, rice, and parsley. *Smush* these ingredients together really well, kind of like what you would do while making meatballs. Then, add in your raisins (make sure they get evenly distributed throughout the meat mixture).
Once the ingredients in the meat mixture are fully incorporated, we can move on to the cabbage. Rinse the head of cabbage under cool water and pat dry. In a large stock pot, let salted water reach a rolling boil. Once it has done so, carefully lower the cabbage in to the pot (be careful to not splash and burn yourself) and cover it with a lid.
After around 10 minutes, you can remove the cabbage from the water and slowly start to peel back the outermost leaves of the head, making sure to not tear the leaves or burn your fingers. If a leaf is hard to remove from the head, it is not fully cooked and should go back to the boiling water for a few more minutes. Make sure to peel off 8-10 leaves for your cabbage rolls.
Now we are ready to roll. (i love puns)
Take a cabbage leaf, and lay it down on a cutting board (I used a dish towel on top of my cutting board to absorb any excess water). Using a sharp knife, cut a wedge in to the cabbage leaf removing the thick rib in the center of the leaf.
Next, take a few spoonfuls of your meat filling and tightly pack it in the area just above the wedge you cut out.
Now, fold up the bottom 2 halves of the cabbage leaf making sure to cover the meat.
Time to fold in the sides.
Last step, tuck and roll. (hahaaa)
It should look like a baby cabbage burrito. Repeat this process for the remaining leaves you set aside.
It’s time to finally revisit that sauce. Pour some of the sweet & sour tomato sauce in to the bottom of your slow cooker, just enough to cover the bottom of the pot. Carefully start placing your cabbage rolls seam-side down on top of the sauce in the pot.
Lastly, top your cabbage rolls with the remaining sauce.
Cover and cook on low for 6-7 hours. Enjoy having a tasty, comforting, home cooked meal that didn’t heat up your house and cause you to melt any further.