I found inspiration for this dish from a recipe in one of my cooking books called "Vegetarian Bible". The original recipe uses barley for stuffing. Stuffed cabbage rolls are also commonly made with a beef stuffing. I would have done that - but I just don't eat beef for only 7 days in a week. So, that was no option. I had to make something that would be tasty, healthy and ultimately delicious. And did not have barley at home. But, really wanted to make these too. Guess, what I did have at home - Quinoa. Perfect. This should work good with Quinoa. Everything works good with Quinoa. Doesn't it?!
And I just came back from my farmers market with beautiful veggies and had to use those! What better recipe to use yellow zucchini in?
And of course, the quinoa is from my favorite Trader Joes!
I cooked 2 cups of Quinoa in my rice cooker.
Add 4 cups of water for 2 cups of quinoa and set it on a regular rice cooking mode.
While the quinoa is getting cooked, let's move on to the next step. And that will be to blanch the cabbage.
Use the brightest green cabbage you can find. Unfortunately, I could not find the really green ones in my farmers market that day and hence picked the best from what I had.
Cut the stalk off from the bottom and slowly peel out the layers. Be gentle and try to peel the whole leaf. Its ok if some leaves tear. You can also double them up to make the rolls.
Heat up water in a big pot and bring to a boil. Also set a bowl with cold water and ice together on the side. We are going to shock the poor innocent cabbage! Ha Ha Ha (evil laughter)
Dunk the cabbage leaf in the almost boiling water and leave it there for a min. Not too long. You can put a few leaves at a time - not necessarily just one every time. But, make sure they have enough room to breathe and cook.
Then, remove the blanched leaf gently and dunk it immediately in cold water for another minute to stop the cooking process. This also helps in maintaining the nice green color.
Then gently lift the leaves out of the cold water and set aside so that all the excess water drains out. The cabbage leaves are now ready for the show!
The next step will be to get the filling ready. And once again I decided to make it all colorful - just the way nature intended us to eat.
I used onions, red bell peppers, yellow zucchini and green zucchini. You can use anything your heart desires..I mean veggie-wise!
In a wide pan, add about 1 tsp olive oil or any other oil you use everyday. Throw in the onions and saute till translucent.
Next, throw in the red bell peppers. Saute for a min. You don't want to overcook the veggies. Let them be a little crisp. These will be oven baked later on too and will cook again.
Then, throw in the green and yellow zucchinis. Oh how much I love color! Makes my heart sing a happy song!
Sprinkle salt to taste.
And here's the kicker - a tsp of red chilli flakes. You all know how I like to spice it up!
Add the cooked quinoa to the veggies.
Mix well and cook for a couple of mins.
As soon as you see this, you can know that I cooked this on a Tuesday - coz I just love the fresh basil available in my farmers market (open on tuesdays only). And I have to use it the same day! Nothing beats the smell and aroma of fresh basil. My whole kitchen smells good when I wash and chop the basil leaves. This is natural cooking aromatherapy...
So, get some fresh basil. Pluck just the leaves, wash well and chop finely into small bits.
Add the chopped basil to the quinoa and mix well. You just made the dish triple flavorful!
For a quick meal, you can just make this alone and don't have to worry about stuffing this into anything. Its a great meal by itself.
Here comes the fun assembly part.
Place one leaf on a working surface. Fill the center with a good amount of quinoa. Good enough so you can still roll the cabbage.
Fold the sides towards the center.
Then gently starting from the base, roll the leaf towards the tips.
Tuck in the sides tightly. I wish I can tuck in my sides too like this - tightly! LOL!
Place on a baking dish. I actually forgot and placed it in my serving dish - and then when I was done with all the rolls, I remembered that this serving dish was not oven proof. At least, it looks pretty!
Place them all in a line..it looks like a cabbage sleepover party in there!
Now, let's make a super quick topping. And also super delicious.
I had a can of stewed tomatoes and used that. You can also use fresh ripe tomatoes here. Works great!
Add in your roughly chopped tomatoes to the food processor. If you're using fresh tomatoes, about 4-5 tomatoes would be good.
Add in a handful of fresh basil. Add 2-3 cloves of garlic ( you can sure skip this if you are not a garlic person). Add salt and a little pepper to taste. Then, add about 2 tbsps of olive oil.
Give it all a good whirrr....
Move to a pan and cook at medium heat for a few mins until the raw smell of the tomatoes go away. The sauce looks brown in color because of all the basil. But, as it cooks, the red of the tomato will start showing up. You just wait.
Is it a little more red now. And it smells like heaven! And it tastes like hawaii in heaven! Really!
Now, gently spread a little sauce over the rolled cabbage. Make sure this is in a baking dish now as you will move the whole thing into the oven.
If you have a lot of sauce, you can just pour the sauce at the bottom of the pan. My sauce was perfect to cover the tops.
Then, seal the baking dish with aluminum foil and bake in a preheated oven at 375F for about 20-30 minutes or until the cabbage leaves turn tender. The bottom baking dish is my oven roasted root vegetables - recipe coming up soon in another post.
After about 30 mins of being hungry and salivating...open up the foil to reveal the fruit of all your efforts. Or rather, the cabbage rolls of all your efforts! Don't they look hot? I mean..as in sexy hot?
The whole roll uses 1 tsp of oil. Can you believe that? And a whole load of protein and fiber because of the quinoa. And of course, the goodness of the veggies! Even though the whole batch of sauce has 2 tbsps of oil, you'll probably eat about 1 tsps in your serving. Still - a really good healthy meal. And filling too! But, will still keep you lite and you will not feel like a hippo after eating this (trust me, I've been there many times)
I served these with a side of roasted root vegetables. And sometimes I like to take things literally, so actually served these with a side of roasted vegetable!
Give your family a plate of this healthy deliciousness - they're sure to love it. They will surely notice the deliciousness part but won't even realize that its' also super healthy for them!
Enjoy. Peace Out!