Aunt Gussie Malovany’s Stuffed Cabbage is legendary, and for good reason. She makes it with love and she loves to know that her family and friends are eating it. She has diligently and lovingly stuffed those cabbage leaves — one by one — for decades. I stand second to none in my admiration for those rolls, but I have always known that they were out of my league.
My Mother, Letty Gainen, was a terrific cook — until she tired of the whole exercise. She left behind the Beth Torah Synagogue Cookbook, A Cook for All Seasons (1977), which includes Blintz Casserole (featured at the annual “Latkapalooza), and a host of other treasures, but no index. When it gets cold and I need comfort food, I turn to her best pal Lil Litowsky’s “Sweet & Sour Meat With Cabbage,” which covers all of the stuffed cabbage flavor and texture territory, but not one cabbage leaf gets stuffed.
Never one to leave flavors alone, I have updated Lil’s original with hot peppers, raisins and rice. The “red ingredient” was originally ketchup. Mom used “1890 Salad Dressing,” which is no longer available. I’ve used French’s Catalina Free, a can of Rotel, tomato sauce with lots of hot sauce and chili sauce. I don’t think it matters much in the end.
Lazy stuffed cabbage
1 pound ground beef (or turkey, chicken, or meat substitute)
1 onion, coarsely chopped
1 green or red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
4 jalapeno or other hot peppers, minced
1 cup of “red stuff” of your choice
1 cup of water (or more, depending on the rice you choose)
1 cup of whole grain rice (not instant)
2 T brown sugar
2 T cider vinegar
1/2 to 3/4 tsp ground cloves
1 bay leave
1 cup of raisins
5 cups of cabbage, coarsely sliced
juice of a lemon
1. Brown the onion and peppers in a large frying pan with a lid or a Dutch oven. Add the meat or meat substitute, break it up and brown it. Drain the fat.
2. Add the “red stuff” of your choice, water, vinegar, sugar, cloves, bay leave and raisins. Blend well.
3. Put the cabbage on top of the meat mixture, cover and simmer 30 minutes, or until the rice is cooked. Check on the mixture after 15 minutes. Add water if the mixture looks sticky and the rice is crunchy.
4. Add the lemon juice before serving.
This is even better the next day, and it freezes very well.