Stuffed cabbage rolls are a traditional Simchat Torah food because two of the little rolls side by side look like a Torah scroll. Even if your cabbage rolls come out in various sizes, you can place a big roll next to a small roll, and together they'll look just like a Torah at the end of the year, scrolled all the way to the end of Deuteronomy.
For families that have a tradition to eat dinner after hakafot, like mine, cabbage rolls are great soul-food to come home to after a raucous night of dancing. When you stumble through the door at midnight, what could be better than finding cabbage rolls simmering away and swimming in a rich tomato sauce?
1 sprig fresh rosemary plus 1 teaspoon minced rosemary
3 sprigs fresh thyme plus 1 teaspoon minced thyme
4 large ripe plum tomatoes or 3 ripe beefsteak tomatoes
2 1/2 cups water
3 cloves garlic
1 28oz can crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup red wine (sweet or dry, your preference)
salt and pepper to taste
1 6oz can tomato paste
4 yellow onions
1 green cabbage, leaves intact
2 lbs ground beef
1 cup short grain brown rice
4 Tablespoons grape seed oil
Make the Filling
Place the rice and 1 3/4 cups of water in a saucepan. When the water boils reduce the heat to medium and cook the rice until all the water has been absorbed. Al dente is ideal.
Meanwhile, mince the onions and saute in grape seed oil in a large heavy-bottomed, oven-proof pot until soft.
In a large bowl, combine half the sauteed onion with the ground beef, eggs, rice, 2 Tablespoons tomato paste, minced thyme and rosemary, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix with your hands until all ingredients are fully combined.
Prepare & Stuff the Leaves
Remove the first few outer leaves of the cabbage, then place the entire cabbage in a pot, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Let boil for 10 minutes to loosen the leaves. (Alternatively, you can put the cabbage in the freezer for three days prior to beginning the dish, which also loosens its leaves.)
Remove the cabbage from the pot and start peeling off leaves, making sure not to tear them. Be careful not to burn yourself from the steam! If you're having trouble removing leaves without tearing them, put the cabbage back in the pot and boil for another 5-10 minutes to loosen the leaves even more.
Once the soft leaves and filling are both ready to go, start placing spoonfuls of the filling inside each cabbage leaf. Roll each leaf up like a burrito, carefully tucking in the sides of the cabbage as you go. As each roll is finished, set it aside.
Preheat the oven to 300 F.
Peel the garlic cloves, slice thinly, and add them to the pot with the second half of the cooked onions. Cube the fresh tomatoes and saute them with the garlic and onions for a few minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes, water, and the rest of the tomato paste. Add the sprigs of thyme and rosemary, lots of freshly cracked pepper, and a bit of salt. Finally, add the wine.
Place the cabbage rolls one at a time in the pot of sauce, making sure all the rolls are completely covered in sauce. You can certainly add some water to make the sauce go further to cover all. Put the lid on and place in the oven. Cook for at least 3.5 hours, and up to 8.
On Simchat Torah eve, you can put your cabbage rolls in the oven, then go to shul, then another shul, and dance for hours knowing that your cabbage rolls are not drying out. Au contraire! They are simply improving.
Pronunced: TORE-uh, Origin: Hebrew, the Five Books of Moses.