But no, it came to me via the Vegetarian Times, the only food magazine I currently read and find in my mail box. Before Deb's post, and the magazine in my mailbox, I never really had stuffed cabbage leaves in a tomato sauce. Only once, shortly after Michael became a vegetarian and I searched non-pasta recipes to make, did I stuff cabbage leaves, back then with goat's cheese and honey. This was never quite forgotten, but somehow I never did get around to making it again. These stuffed cabbage leaves are a completely different thing. When the goat's cheese stuffed leaves were creamy and smooth and rather subtle, these are a little spicy and pungent. In fact, I might have over seasoned them a little, overcompensating for the somewhat under seasoned looking recipe. It did work out nicely with the plain rice I served them with, but if you are rather sensitive to spices you might want to use less of the cumin.
Middle Easter Lentil-Stuffed Cabbage Leaves
Adapted from the Vegetarian Times, March 2013
3/4 cup French green lentils
2 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
optional: the green part of one small leek (I had some left-over, but I wouldn't go out and buy leek just for this recipe)
1 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tsp za'atar
2 tsp salt, divided
9 large savoy cabbage leaves
1 small handful dried currants, chopped
1 small handful Kalamata olives, pitted, coarsely chopped
2 tbsp lemons preserved in salt, divided (or 2 tbsp lemon juice + 1 tsp lemon zest, divided)
1 15-oz can crushed tomatoes (I buy passata, plain pureed tomatoes, but no the concentrated tomato puree)
2 tsp cumin (I'd might use a little less the next time)
1 tsp marjoram
cayenne pepper and pepper, to taste
Preheat the oven to 375°F/190°C.
In a saucepan, cook the lentils with 4 cups water until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain.
In the same saucepan, bring a few inches of water to a boil, add the cabbage leaves and cook for a minute or two. Drain, rinse with cold water and set aside.
In the same saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion (and optional leek), and sauté for 3 minutes or until translucent and fragrant. Turn the heat down and add the garlic. Sauté for another minute or so, then turn the heat off and set aside.
In a mixing bowl, lightly mash the lentils using your fingers (if you use a blender/food processor, only mash half of the lentils and add them back to the bowl with the rest of the lentils). Add in the sauteed garlic and onion, the currants and olives, flour, za'atar, 1 tsp of the salt and half of the preserved lemon, or 1 tbsp lemon juice.
In another mixing bowl, combine the tomatoes, cumin, marjoram, the rest of the salt, the rest of the preserved lemons (or 1 tbsp lemon juice and 1 tsp lemon zest), and cayenne pepper to taste.
Coat the bottom of a 8-inch baking dish with a little tomato sauce. Set next to your work surface.
Lay one cabbage leave flat on your work surface. Place two tablespoons of the lentil filling on the leave. Fold the sides of the leave to the center, and roll the leaves up beginning on the rib end. Place seam side down in the baking dish. Repeat with the other leaves. Cover with the rest of the tomato sauce.
Bake for 45 minutes. (I might try to cook them on the stove top the next time I make them. I see little advantage in making them in the oven.)