As any eastern European (or descendent thereof) knows, stuffed cabbage rolls are a delicious dish. Both my German and my Czech grandmother’s made a version. Call this version the California one. Rather than using cabbage, I use collard greens. This delicious wide green leaf is far easier than cabbage to work and form into rolls. Additionally, the stuffing used in this recipe is vegetarian: a fragrant and colorful mixture of herbs, rice, pine nuts, and aromatics.
- 1 bunch collard greens (typically 9-12 leaves)
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 small red onion, minced
- 3/4 cup black rice
- 1/3 cup pine nuts
- 3 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 bunch fresh dill, chopped
- 1 bunch fresh mint, chopped
- 1 bunch flat-leaf parsley
1 1/2 lemons, 1 of the lemons sliced
- 1 4.5 ounce can of tomato paste
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Remove the stems from the collard greens. This includes making a v-cut into the leaf to remove as much of the stem as sticks out above the level of the leaf. Chop the stems and set aside.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to boil, blanch the leaves by submerging them in the water for 2 minutes. Drain, rinse with cold water to stop the cooking, and set aside.
- Heat 2 tbps of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and collard stems and saute until the onions are soft (but not browned), about 5 minutes.
- Add the rice, pine nuts, and garlic to the pan. Saute until you hear the rice start to make a crackling sound, about 2-3 minutes more.
- Stir in the dill, mint, and parsley and remove the saute from the heat. Stir in kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
- Place a dutch oven or similar deep saute pan with a lid on the stove. Don’t turn on the heat yet. You are going to use this to place the stuffed collard greens as you wrap them.
- To stuff the collard leaves, place on vein side up and with the stem end facing you. If the leaf has a v-shaped cut where you removed the stem, pull the two sides of the leaf toward each other and overlap them slightly. Place about a heaping tablespoon of filling on the bottom center the leaf. Fold the bottom over, tuck in the sides, and roll tight. You may need to continue to tuck the sides in as your roll with larger leaves. Place in the dutch oven. Repeat until you have filled all of your leaves.
- In a non-reactive bowl, whisk together the tomato paste, the juice of 1/2 lemon, and 1 tbsp of olive oil.
- Spread the tomato sauce mixture in a thin layer over the stuffed collards. Top with slices of lemon, and enough water to the pan to just reach the top of the stuff collards but no cover them.
- Bring the water to a boil, cover, and reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour.
- To serve, use tongs or a spatula to remove the stuffed collards to a plate, top with the sauce, and serve.
How to Not Screw It Up
- Be gentle when you work with the collard leaves–especially after they have been blanched. They are delicate and can tear easily. Tearing means your stuffing will come out when they cook.
- If you have stuffing left over at the end after filling all of your leaves, it keeps for several days in the refrigerator. Buy another bunch of collard greens, and your a good way finished with making another batch!