My father’s side of the family, my great-grandparents came to America from what was at the time the Austro-Hungarian empire (and is currently Slovakia). They settled in Western Pennsylvania, and passed down a list of the four acceptable male first and middle names as well as a love for cabbage rolls. Their cabbage rolls were, as they are traditionally, filled with ground beef and neatly rolled into small, cabbage-wrapped packages. Mine are for people who, like me, don’t feel like individually wrapping each morsel and instead of beef are filled with a soft, savory combination of rice and mung beans. Then, as is traditional, they are baked under a tomato sauce until it begins to simmer and are served as a warm and filling dinner.
Mung beans are one of my current food crazes- they are similar to lentils, both in taste and in nutrition, although I find them to be smoother and more creamy than the more familiar lentil. Additionally they can be bought inexpensively from Asian grocery stores. I thought that these beans- rich tasting and high in protein- would compliment the rice, cabbage and tomato sauce and round out the meal.
These cabbage “rolls” are made by first cooking the rice and mung beans- if you use jasmine rice and split mung beans as my recipe does you can actually cook them together in one pot- and blanching the cabbage. Then you mix the rice, beans and cabbage together, along with onions, spices and olives (the olives are not necessarily traditional, but a wonderful addition), using your hands for the best result. The best way to form the rolls is, again, by using your hands. Taking a small pile in one hand (roughly 3/4 of a cup’s worth), use the other to pack it down into a round or egg-shaped- just like making a snowball. Add a little tomato sauce in the bottom of a baking pan, and gently place each of the cabbage rolls in a single layer in the dish. Top the cabbage rolls off with a generous coating of tomato sauce, and bake until the sauce has begun to simmer. Serve warm
Lazy Vegan Cabbage Rolls with Mung Beans
- 1 cup jasmine rice
- 1 cup split mung beans
- ½ a head of cabbage
- 1 small onion
- 1 cup of kalamata olives (optional but recommended)
- 1 tsp. chili flakes
- ½ tsp. thyme
- 1 tsp. basil
- ¼ tsp. oregano
- 25 oz. jar of tomato sauce, or your favorite homemade variety
1. In a medium-sized pot, rinse your rice a couple times (using new water each time) before combining it with the mung beans and three cups of water. Cover and bring to a boil, reducing it to a simmer until all the water has been absorbed (about 20 minutes).
2. In the meantime, put a kettle of water on to boil. Thinly slice the cabbage, dice the onion and chop olives into small slices. Place the cabbage in a large metal mixing bowl, and pour the boiling water over it. Stir the cabbage around for 3-4 minutes, until the cabbage is a vibrant green and slightly softer, then drain the water from the cabbage. Taking small handfuls in your hands, squeeze hard to remove as much liquid as possible. Add the onion, olive, spices and rice and mung beans (once they’ve been cooked) and mix well. If you allow the mixture to cool slightly, you can use your hands to mix (they’re the best tool for the job).
3. Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). In a large glass baking dish, pour a small amount of the tomato sauce into the bottom, and spread to cover. Next take a handful of the cabbage mixture (around ¾ of a cup) and use your hands to form the mixture into a spherical or egg-shaped round, and place it in the pan. Continue until you have used all the cabbage and rice mixture (you should have around 12 balls total). Pour the remaining sauce over the cabbage spheres and put in the oven for around 30 minutes, until the sauce is bubbling slightly. Remove and serve hot.