All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2017
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I had cabbage & I had a desire for some old school comfort food. I was Googling around looking for inspiration & saw this thing of beauty by Proud Italian Cook:
Both my friend, Rose, and I were blown away & both swore to make it immediately. And we both did. I think she stuck with the original recipe but I had to make it vegan & make it before work – including going to the store to buy a different kind of cabbage – Savoy cabbage – so I could get that pretty lace effect – so I had quite a task ahead. My cabbage, ultimately, was not quite as vascular as the one Proud Italian Cook used & my oven heats unevenly – so I did not get quite the forest effect they did & I browned one side. No matter! This was easy to make & is really delicious & quite the show stopper!
I would have just used two bags of the Beyond Meat rather than add tofu but I only had one bag. I used frozen tofu that I thawed & then squeezed the water out. It gives the tofu a spongy-texture that resembles ground beef more than raw tofu does. It also has the added benefit of removing lots of the moisture.
I also added maitake mushrooms (seen above) and 2 grilled zucchini – simply because I had them. You could fill your cake with whatever traditional filling you would use for cabbage rolls or use this recipe or tweak this recipe. I used Rao’s sauce for ease & because it is the best jarred sauce on the market. You can use your own favorite – homemade or from a jar. Whatever you decide – I promise you will be delighted with this unexpected & regal reinvention of the humble stuffed cabbage roll.
Vegan “Tree of Life” Cabbage Cake (Stuffed Cabbage Tower)
Serves 4-6 (depending on appetites)
1 large head of Savoy (or other green) cabbage
2+ TBS olive oil
9 oz vegan beef crumbles (or 18 oz or more and skip the tofu below)
1 lb tofu – frozen, thawed, water squeezed out & crumbled
1 onion – diced
4 garlic cloves – minced
1 celery stalk – chopped
1/2 to 1 lb mushrooms – chopped (optional)
1/4 cup parsley – chopped
1-3 tsp fresh thyme (or oregano) – less if you use dried
1 1/2 cups cooked rice (I used brown basmati)
S&P to taste
24 oz of your favorite red sauce
1 cup or so of Grated vegan Parmesan – optional
Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
Core the bottom of the cabbage (leaving it in tact) & place in a deep pot cored-side down. Add 2-3 inches of water & bring to a boil – covered – for 5 minutes. Plunge into cold water & when it is cool enough to handle – carefully peel the leaves away & place on paper towels to dry.
Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan & then cook the onions, celery and mushrooms (if using) until soft (my photos do not reflect the proper order & it doesn’t really matter). Add the beef, tofu, and garlic, thyme, parsley rice & 1 cup marinara. Blend well. Season with S&P.
Grease a deep, round casserole or souffle-type dish & then arrange the prettiest and largest leaf on the bottom. Place another leaf on top of that and up the sides of the dish all around. Layer in some beef mixture (maybe 1/2 inch) & top with another layer of cabbage. Repeat until you reach the top or run out of filling. Finish with cabbage on top making sure to tuck it in the dish all around. Drizzle the top with olive oil and a sprinkling of about half your cheese (if you are using vegan or real cheese) all over. The cheese can be eliminated completely with little impact on this recipe.
Bake for about 40 minutes. Let it rest then invert a serving plate over the casserole dish, then carefully flip it over. Top with more warmed marinara & some of your cheese. Cut into slices and serve with additional warmed marinara and more grated cheese.