Based on a recipe from my book The Foods of the Greek Islands
I suggest using a combination of savoy cabbage and collards (or kale). The pink tomato-avgolemono sauce is my variation on the traditional recipe, and its lemony taste goes well with the sweetness of the stuffed cabbage leaves. As with most stews, it’s better to make this dish a day in advance and let the flavors develop overnight.
Since it contains meat, greens and rice, all you need to accompany it is a simple side dish of steamed carrots or turnips—pour some of the avgolemono sauce over them as well.
Makes 6 to 8 servings
1 large savoy cabbage (about 13/4 pounds)
1 bunch collard greens or kale
1/2 pound pancetta (bacon, or spicy sausage) finely diced
3 tablespoons olive oil
11/2 cups finely chopped onions
1 1/2 pound lean ground beef or pork
1 1/2 cups grated ripe tomatoes (see page 27) or canned diced tomatoes with their juice
2/3 cup medium-grain rice, such as Arborio
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 tablespoon turmeric (optional)
1 -3 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or pinch of crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
1 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2/3 cup grated hard myzithra, kefalotyri or pecorino Romano cheese (optional)
5 scallions (white and most of the green parts), finely chopped
1 cup chopped dill
Freshly ground black pepper
About 1 1/2 cups white wine, or beef or Chicken Stock
About 2 cups beef stock or Chicken Stock, as needed
1/2 cup tomato juice or white wine
2 large eggs
4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, or more, to taste
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons cornstarch
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley or dill
Prepare the cabbage and other leaves:
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add 2 tablespoons salt.
Using a sharp knife, cut out the core of the cabbage, and separate the leaves. Fill a large bowl with cold water.
Blanch the leaves in batches, in the boiling water, letting the larger leaves cook for about 5 minutes and the smaller ones for about 3 minutes, or until just tender. Transfer each batch to the bowl of cold water to stop the cooking, then transfer to a colander to drain; repeat with the kale or collard greens, cooking them for about 3 minutes, or until just tender.
You can prepare the cabbage and other leaves a day in advance. Stack them carefully on a large plate, cover and refrigerate.
Make the stuffing:
In a large skillet, sauté the pancetta or sausage over medium-high heat until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the oil and onions and sauté until the onions are soft, about 5-8 minutes. Add the pork or beef and sauté, stirring often, for 5 minutes more, or until no longer pink.
Add the tomatoes, rice, wine, allspice, turmeric, if using, Aleppo pepper or pepper flakes, and salt to taste, and bring to a boil.
Remove from the heat and stir in the parsley, cheese, if using, scallions, dill, and black pepper to taste. Taste and adjust the seasonings.
To form and cook the cabbage logs:
Preheat the oven to 400ºF (200ºC)
Cut off the hard stems from the cabbage leaves, kale and collard greens and finely chop them; add them to the stuffing and stir to mix.
Line two cake tins with parchment paper. Use about 1/3 of the leaves to line the two pans, leaving them to hang well over the top.
Divide the stuffing between the 2 pans and cover with the rest of the leaves; then turn the overhanging leaves over to neatly cover the stuffing.
Cover each pan with parchment paper, and then with a double-layer of aluminum foil and transfer them to a deep pan. Pour enough boiling water into the deep pan to come to about half-way up the sides of the cake tins, and place in the preheated oven.
Bake for 35 minutes and then lower the heat to 325ºF (160ºC) and continue baking for 1 hour and 30 minutes, adding more boiling water in the pan as it evaporates. Turn off the oven and crack open the door. Let the cabbage rolls cool in the oven for another 30 minutes, then take them out of the larger pan and place on a rack to cool completely.
Refrigerate for a few hours, or overnight, before slicing and reheating –in the microwave or over boiling water– to serve with the sauce.
To stuff and cook the stuffed cabbage leaves:
Cut off the hard stems from the cabbage leaves, kale and collard greens, and make a layer of the stems in the bottom of a large pot to prevent the stuffed cabbage from sticking.
Lay 1 cabbage leaf on a work surface, and place about 1/3 cup stuffing in the middle of the wider end of the leaf. Fold the sides over the filling and roll up the leaf to enclose the stuffing. Squeeze the stuffed leaf over a medium bowl to extract most of the excess liquid and place the stuffed leaf in the pot, seam side down. Continue stuffing the remaining leaves, overlapping 2 smaller cabbage leaves or 1 cabbage leaf and 1 collard or kale leaf when you’ve used all the larger leaves, and arranging the stuffed leaves close together in the pot; make a second layer of stuffed leaves on top of the first.
You can also stuff the middle core of the cabbage, as you remove the outer larger leaves for the dolma: With a grapefruit knife or spoon remove the inner part and stuff with the mixture, than place in the center of the pot and surround with the stuffed cabbage leaves.
Place an inverted heatproof plate over the stuffed leaves to prevent them from moving during cooking, and pour in the collected liquid from the bowl and enough stock to just cover.
Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the leaves are very tender and the rice is cooked. Check from time to time to see if a little more stock is needed.
Let cool completely. (If you have time, refrigerate the leaves overnight to allow the flavors to develop.)
Reheat and make the sauce:
About 30 minutes before serving, reheat the sliced log in the microwave, or the stuffed cabbage leaves in the pot: Bring the liquid just to a boil over medium heat, cover, reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 15 minutes. Transfer the stuffed leaves to a heated platter, cover and keep warm while you prepare the sauce.
Sauce: In a medium saucepan, bring to a boil 2 cups stock or the stuffed-cabbage cooking liquid and enough stock to equal 2 cups. Add the tomato juice or wine, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 2 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, 3 tablespoons of the lemon juice and 2 tablespoons of the water. In a small bowl, whisk the cornstarch with the remaining 2 tablespoons water, then whisk into the egg mixture. Whisking constantly, slowly pour 1 1/2 cups of the hot stock mixture, 1/2 cup at a time, into the egg mixture.
Pour the egg mixture into the saucepan and simmer, stirring gently, until the sauce thickens. Taste and adjust the seasonings, adding pepper and more lemon juice if you like.
Pour some of the sauce over the stuffed cabbage leaves, or the sliced cabbage logs and sprinkle with the parsley and dill, serving the remaining sauce on the side.