The Formidable Cabbages of Kea

By February gardeners on the island pick the remaining cabbages from the garden, as they start to prepare the soil for the spring and summer vegetables.

Local cabbages are huge this time of the year but not particularly heavy; the heads are no longer tight and compact because the cabbage leaves start to loosen as the central stem grows. For us now is the ideal time to make lahano-dolmades, or yaprakia (stuffed cabbage leaves). It is much easier to separate the outer leaves of these late-season cabbages to blanch and stuff them. Our neighbor Stathis gave me two large cabbages the other day, as he was digging out his winter garden. He got six cabbages, more than Ela could use.

With the outer leaves I made Stuffed Cabbage Logs (just invented the title), because I had far too much stuffing and no time to wrap and roll lots of individual cabbage leaves.

These logs are a cross between stuffed cabbage leaves, meatloaf and pâté, as I slow-cook them in bain marie, in the oven, just like the traditional French pâté. You can cook regular stuffed cabbage leaves this way as well if you like them to cook evenly, making sure that they won’t burn at the bottom of the pan.

But the problem with my cabbage logs is that there is no broth to use for the avgolemono (egg-and-lemon) sauce that is the usual, and much-appreciated, topping. If you have a good, home-made vegetable or meat broth, you can use that. As I did not, I invented a rich, mushroom-garlic-yogurt avgolemono (see Vegetarian Cabbage Parcels) that besides topping for the various stuffed leaves, it complements beautifully all kinds of dishes –with meat, as well as vegetarian.

The meatless cabbage parcels show you another way to make nice and tidy stuffed leaves and you can use this method, and the stuffing, not just with cabbage, but also with chard, beet leaves, kale, and the hard outer Romaine lettuce leaves that make wonderful dolmades.

The delicious meat stuffing comes from my bestseller The Foods of the Greek Islands, which is currently out of print; but you can pre-order it as it is coming out in paperback edition, next month.

Here is what I wrote:

“On Corfu, cabbage leaves are stuffed with equal amounts of rice and meat, flavored with pancetta, cheese and tomatoes. This recipe is based on the description Ninetta Laskari gives in her book about her childhood years on Corfu, along with some of the history of the island. I first made this dish using the large blue-green leaves from the shoots that grow around the cabbage head. These leaves are similar to collards but somewhat thicker, and they have more flavor than the leaves of the common white cabbage. Here, I suggest using a combination of savoy cabbage and collards (or kale) instead. 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.”

Stuffed Cabbage Logs and Yaprakia tis Kerkyras (Cabbage Leaves Stuffed with Meat and Rice from Corfu) Based on a recipe from my book The Foods of the Greek Islands
Vegetarian Cabbage Parcels
Mushroom, Garlic, and Yogurt Avgolemono

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