Sunday, November 22, 2015

Turkish Cabbage Rolls

I follow this delectable Turkish food blog.  Ozlem's Turkish Table has recipes that drip authenticity. An enthusiastic, descriptive teacher and blogger, she has a talent for out of the ordinary preparations. She gathers from experience, from family, so every now and then we are treated to a meander through a Turkish kitchen... All delightfully delicious. 

Her last post intrigues me. Cabbage rolls filled with ground beef and bulgar, cooked in a sauce of lemon and olive oil. I am inspired enough to recreate. Plain cabbage is replaced with Savoy cabbage, because I like the veined look of these leaves. Fresh mint in place of dried, as fresh is more flavorful. Just a few adjustments to the original and I'm ready to roll cabbage leaves. 

The filling is kneaded well. Cabbage leaves are separated and boiled. The braising liquid is easily assembled. Keep paper towels handy!! A messy prep leads to neat packages. They fit snugly in a Dutch oven. Liquid is poured over the rolls. I place a plate over the rolls. The plate is topped with a bowl of water. This weighs down the rolls, making sure they do not unravel while braising. The lid goes on and it cooks undisturbed for forty five minutes. Anticipation is the name of the game!

Makes 6-8 rolls

6-8 Savoy Cabbage leaves
8 oz ground Beef
1/2 cup Bulgar
2 tablespoons fresh Mint leaves
1 small Onion
Handful of Parsley leaves
1/2 teaspoon Cumin powder
1/2 teaspoon Chile Flakes
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
Freshly cracked Black Pepper
1 teaspoon Olive Oil
2 cloves Garlic
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1/2 teaspoon Chile Flakes
2 teaspoons Olive Oil
1 Lemon, juiced 
10 fresh Mint leaves, chopped fine
1 teaspoon Tomato Paste 
2-3 cups Water
Freshly cracked Black Pepper 
1/2 cup Yogurt, whisked smooth

Start by boiling 4 cups of water in a large saucepan.

Once water has boiled,  add cabbage leaves a few at a time. Cook leaves for 3-4 minutes, then drain leaves in a colander.

Assemble the filling by placing beef and bulgar in a bowl.

Mince onion into very fine dice and add to beef.

Finely chop mint and parsley leaves and add to beef.

Season with cumin, chile flakes, salt, pepper and olive oil. Use your hand to knead beef well. 

Pat the cabbage leaves dry. Using a sharp knife cut out the rib in the center of each leaf. Discard hard centers.

Take about 2-3 tablespoons of filling and pack it into a cylindrical form in the center of the leaf. Start rolling the leaf by covering the filling with lower leaves. Tuck leaves tightly over the filling. Tuck left and right sides into the center, then roll leaf forward till you have a tight cylinder. Repeat with other leaves. The filling should be adjusted according to the size of the leaves. 

The braising liquid starts with peeling garlic cloves. Mash garlic in a mortar and pestle with the salt. Spoon out into a bowl.

To the bowl add chile flakes, lemon juice, mint leaves, tomato paste, olive oil, 2 cups water and black pepper.

Arrange cabbage rolls in a saucepan. They should fit in snugly. 

Pour the braising liquid over rolls. The liquid should cover at least 3/4 of the rolls. If needed, add more water to the saucepan. 

Place saucepan over medium heat. Bring liquid to a slow simmer. Place a plate or lid on top of rolls. Place a bowl of water on top of the plate. Cover saucepan with a lid and let rolls simmer for 45 minutes. 

Uncover lid. Gently lift rolls and arrange on a platter. Pour remaining liquid over rolls. 

Enjoy rolls accompanied with whisked yogurt.

 I am excited as I uncover the lid. I eagerly stick my face into the saucepan. I am not disappointed. I love what I see and inhale. The rolls take on a lacy look, the Savoy cabbage giving the rolls a distinct pattern. Steam escapes as I fork a bite. The bulgar has fluffed nicely. Meat takes on the seasoning flavors. Paired with yogurt, the rolls taste meaty, wholesome. With some help from Ozlem, the taste of Turkey travels easily to my table.