My grandmother was not like the old dears you see in the movies, baking cakes and handing out treats to the grandkids. When I picture her, it’s with her suitcase by her side, ready to take off on a trip to some exotic destination.
Despite not being much of a homebody, Grandma did grow up in Russia in the early part of the 20th Century, so she knew her way around stuffed peppers and cabbage.
Though she often added a little ground beef when making these for our family, she also reminded us that when she was a child, there was no meat to be had. They made their stuffed cabbage with rice and what little else they could scrape together.
I still hear her voice every time I cook.
“Waste not, want not,” she would say, as she scraped the last grain of rice from the pan, the last drop of tomato sauce from the bowl.
She knew what it was like to be without, and she knew that abundance was a temporary state. It could all disappear tomorrow.
This recipe is the “good times” version of Grandma’s, containing relatively expensive ingredients like seitan and yellow bell peppers. But if you’re living a little leaner, strip it back to basics and it will nourish your family just fine.
2 large bell peppers (any color)
2 large cabbage leaves (or collard greens)
½ cup rice
½ med onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
½ cup seitan, diced (optional)
½ cup corn (frozen, canned, or fresh)
pinch of paprika
8oz can crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce
1 tbsp vegan Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp brown sugar
Cook the rice.
On medium-high heat, sauté onion and garlic until onion is translucent.
Add the seitan and sauté until lightly browned.
Stir in the corn.
Add the paprika, salt, pepper, and rice.
Mix well and set aside.
In a bowl, combine tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, and sugar. That’s it.
Peppers and Cabbage
Cut the tops off the peppers in one straight slice. The tops will be lids for your peppers.
Clean out the seeds.
Blanche peppers and tops for 3 or 4 minutes in boiling water, until a slightly soft.
Blanche the cabbage leaves for 1 or 2 minutes, until soft.
Pour a little tomato sauce into a medium baking pan so it just covers the bottom.
Set peppers in the pan and fill almost to the top with the rice mixture.
Spread the cabbage leaves flat on a plate and add a couple of spoonfuls of filling. Roll the leaves like you would roll a burrito or crepe, ends tucked in.
Fit the rolled cabbage leaves into the baking pan next to the peppers.
It’s best if everything is snugly tucked together in the pan.
Spoon the tomato sauce into the peppers and work the sauce down inside the filling with the spoon. You’ll find you can add a lot of sauce, which makes everything extra tasty.
Pop the lids on the peppers.
Pour the rest of the tomato sauce over the rolled cabbage leaves.
Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.
Enjoy with crusty bread and a side salad.
Do you have favorite dishes that have been handed down through family members? I’d love to hear about them.