While making these, I realized that I really love stuffing things–as if being a unofficial member of Over Eaters Anonymous wasn’t enough of an indication. I made this for Shabbat dinner a few weeks back and it was really a great dinner idea because once you make the stuffing, you just let everything cook in a lot of sauce for an hour or two. It requires almost no attention! I made this once for my seven-year-old brother and sister and stuffed red peppers with meat, carrot and ptitim (Israeli couscous/pasta balls) and they were overjoyed. When I make it for grown ups, it’s fun to be a little classier.
This recipe has a lot of ingredients. Don’t skimp on the spices or the sauce, but if you want to switch up the stuffing ingredients, do so recklessly! You could do feta, herbs and rice…you should do rice, raisins and lentils….you could do rice, cinnamon, green beans and meat…the combinations are endless! And who even needs rice? Soak some bulgur! Boil a lentil…or 100! Try a mung bean! Eat a chickpea! You get the picture…But don’t just do peppers. Stuff a tomato, a zucchini, an eggplant, a kohlrabi, an onion, a beet, maybe even a radish! I don’t know about that one though. If you do it, let me know.
What you need:
For the sauce:
2 containers of tomato paste
1 cup water
3 tsp garlic; minced
1 tsp of salt and pepper, each
2 large cans of diced tomatoes (OR 1 large container of low-sodium V8 Juice)
add a tsp of chili flakes if you’d like some heat
about 1 pound of vegetables good for stuffing, OR:
8 small zucchinis
1 kohlrabi (you can use as many as you want. I was just experimenting and so I only tried one but it was PHENOMENAL)
5 small peppers
1 head of cabbage (will make about 15 stuffed cabbages)
For the stuffing:
1 carrot; finely diced
4 stalks celery; finely diced
3 cups of bulgar (you can use rice or quinoa, too, but if you use rice, only stuff the peppers 3/4 of the way full)
3 tsp baharat spice
1 cup of parsley; finely chopped
1 cup of mint; finely chopped
3 tblsp pomegranate syrup
salt & pepper to taste
juice from one lemon
2 tblsp olive oil
How to do it:
First core the cabbage (if you can’t because it’s too hard, not to worry). Boil some water and place the entire cabbage in it for 5-10 minutes. Turn your cabbage on different sides throughout this time so that it all cooks evenly. This will make the leaves soft and easy to work with. While it’s in the water, check if the leaves are separating from the “body,” strain the water and run the cabbage under cold water. Gently peel of entire leaves and place them on paper towel for a few minutes to dry a little.
Cut the vein out of each cabbage so that the leaves are easy to fold. This one leaf will make two stuffed cabbages. Place all the cabbage leaves in a pile, cover with extra paper towel and set aside.
Over medium heat, fry the carrot and celery in a little oil for five minutes or so to soften. Remove from the heat and combine with the other stuffing ingredients and mix well. Set aside.
While the mixture is cooling, boil the tomato paste, garlic, water, salt & pepper. Let boil for about 10 minutes (or until it thickens a bit), simmer for a few more minutes and then set aside (it will thicken while it sits).
Then core the zucchinis. I never imagined this could be so fun. Make a “c” shape by pressing the corer into the zucchini once, removing it and then pressing it in again. Once you’ve done that, you can twist out the innards by twisting your wrist. Careful you don’t go to fast because you might cause a deep break in the zucchini. Do not go all the way through. Save the innards for a frittata!
How to stuff cabbage:
Stuffing the peppers: Slice off the tops (do not discard), remove the seeds and fill to the top with the bulgar & vegetable mixture. If you decide to use rice, only fill the peppers 3/4 of the way because the rice will expand while being cooked. The zucchinis are simply stuffed as tightly as possible, and the kohlrabi is peeled, cored and stuff easily, too.
Now, back to our sauce. Take the tomato paste mixture and pour it into one large pan/pot or into several if you don’t have one large enough to fit all of your vegetables. The tomato paste mixture will go underneath all the vegetables to keep them from burning and allow them to soak up all the delicious sauce. I think it’s easiest to line your pot(s)/pan(s) with the zucchini and then fill in the spaces with cabbage, since they’re more flexible. They’ll also create a stiff border for the peppers so they don’t fall over. Place the peppers in, with tops, and cover all the vegetables with the diced tomatoes and add water until the vegetables are covered. Bring to a boil and then let simmer on low for about 2 hrs, checking to make sure nothing is burning.