Classic stuffed-cabbage recipes can take many forms, and not a single one is easy.
Whether it’s the sweet-and-sour cabbage rolls of my eastern European ancestors or a meaty French chou farci, traditional stuffed cabbages are labours of love: meals I’m thrilled to encounter but rarely think to make myself.
Not so this recipe, which is a variation of a different order. The work of minutes rather than hours, it’s a rustic riff that’s crisp-edged and crunchy, deeply savoury and maybe even a little sexy (for cabbage, that is).
The secret is in its streamlined stuffing technique.
Standard recipes call for separating the individual cabbage leaves, blanching them, rolling them around a filling, then cooking them again. Here, a piquant stuffing is massaged into the lacy crevices of a raw cabbage that has been cut into wedges. Then, the whole thing is roasted until the top singes, while the underside collapses into something silky and sweet.
The filling – made of umami-rich anchovies and parmesan with chopped walnuts for body – suffuses every bite. But the ratio of cabbage to stuffing falls decidedly on the cabbage’s side. For ardent admirers of the vegetable like myself, this is exactly right.
Once you have the basic method down, the filling is easy to adapt. You can swap any other nuts – or even cooked grains such as rice or farro – for the walnuts. Other hard grating or crumbly cheeses will work in place of the parmesan; feta is on my shortlist to try.
As for the anchovies, those divisive little flavour bombs, they can be substituted with anything pungent and salty for needed zing. Try minced capers, olives, sun-dried tomatoes or even a few tablespoons of flaked canned tuna.
Just make sure to be generous with the olive oil. It helps the cabbage wedges turn golden brown and carries the flavours of the filling so the cabbage leaves can thoroughly absorb it.
You can serve this as a relatively light, meatless main course alongside noodles, rice or crusty bread. Or pair it with roast chicken or fish for a hearty side dish. Although it is at its best hot and crisp from the oven, it is nearly as good at room temperature or even cold from the fridge if you have any left over – making this easy dinner an even easier lunch the next day.
Roasted cabbage with parmesan, walnuts and anchovies
By: Melissa Clark
Serves: 3 to 4
Total time: 45 minutes
1 medium head green cabbage (about 1.1kg)
120ml extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
Salt, as needed
70g finely grated parmesan, plus more for serving
6 anchovy fillets, minced
2 fat garlic cloves, finely grated, passed through a garlic press or minced
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed
100g chopped walnuts or other nuts, such as almonds or hazelnuts
10g chopped fresh dill or cilantro
1. Heat oven to 235C. Cut the cabbage in quarters lengthwise through the core, then cut out the cores and stem. Slice the quarters lengthwise into 4cm-thick wedges.
2. Place wedges on a rimmed baking tray, flat sides down. It’s OK if the pan seems a bit crowded; the wedges will shrink as they roast, but try not to overlap them if possible. Lightly drizzle them with oil and season with salt.
3. In a small bowl, combine parmesan, anchovies, garlic, thyme and black pepper. Stir in 120ml oil to make a loose paste. Massage paste into each cabbage wedge, stuffing the mixture in between the leaves.
4. Lightly drizzle cabbage with a little more oil. Roast until cabbage is lightly browned in spots, 25 to 30 minutes.
5. Remove pan from oven and sprinkle walnuts all over the top of the cabbage. Roast for another 5 minutes or so, until cabbage is tender and caramelised and the walnuts are golden and toasted.
6. Sprinkle cabbage with dill and more parmesan and black pepper, if you’d like. Serve immediately.
© The New York Times