I suppose we all have our contradictions. I generally don't miss meat at all -- but sometimes I crave my Grandma's stuffed cabbage. And, so, while I usually am not interested in re-creating traditional dishes without the meat, I have tried different meatless versions of stuffed cabbage over the years -- ranging from wonderful version at a Ukrainian restaurant in New York City to a best-forgotten attempt using mock meat "crumbles."
I recently noticed a recipe for "Cabbage Parcels" in the Vegetarian Suppers from Deborah Madison's Kitchen cookbook. The parcels -- stuffed with a pureed blend of barley, pecans, cashews, mushrooms, onions, and cheddar cheese -- sounded interesting, even if a bit different from the stuffed cabbage that I grew up with. And so, I decided to give them a try.
I followed the recipe pretty closely, up until it came to stuffing the cabbage leaves. The recipe said to bind the cabbage parcels with kitchen string to hold them together. I skipped this part, and instead just stuffed the cabbage the way I remember seeing it done as a girl -- dab of stuffing in the center of a steamed cabbage leaf, fold the top and then the bottom of the leaf up over the middle, and then carefully tuck the two sides underneath. The stuffed leaves then went into a large skillet of tomato sauce to simmer for about 30 minutes.
I was really pleased with the outcome -- the cabbage rolls weren't exactly like Grandma made them, but were closer than I expected, and also just plain tasty. Folks who are looking for a good homemade veg burger should check out the filling recipe ("Brown Rice-Mushroom 'Burgers,'" from the same cookbook) -- the nut/grain/mushroom blend has a good flavor and even looks surprisingly meat-like (if that's what you're into).