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With the new year comes my least favourite month. January. Just the sound of it makes me cringe. I might feel differently if I lived in the Southern Hemisphere. Or even New Mexico or Arizona. But alas, I live in Canada. Montreal, to be precise. And if I could hibernate for the months of January and February (shudder!), I would do so in a heartbeat. Well, not so much hibernate but more like enshroud myself in my bed with books and movies. And my wee little kittens. Seeing as I have young children who do require the assistance of their mother for their daily existence, I turn instead to comfort foods. Foods to warm and sooth the soul. Foods to nourish the spirit throughout these dark and cold days.

So I begin with cabbage rolls. I asked Emma to help with this one. Anyone who has ever made stuffed cabbage rolls before knows what a time-consuming endeavour this dish can be. And besides, cooking with Emma by my side is a comfort in itself. With comments like, “This cabbage looks like a brain!”, how could it not be? Cooking and baking with either of my girls helps lift my spirit during these dreary winter days.

The Cabbage Brain Hmm…This gives me an idea for next Halloween!

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I started with a recipe which I came across in a magazine a couple of years ago and adapted it slightly, making a few changes of my own. Here’s what you’ll need.

  • 1 savoy cabbage
  • olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup pearl barley
  • 1 1/2 cups low sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 French shallots, finely chopped
  • 250 g ground turkey (I used pork this time…that’s what you get when you send your hubby out to do groceries! You can also use beef, chicken or veal.)
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese (I used light)
  • 1 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 tsp red-wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp salt

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I like to use Savoy cabbage for the tenderness of the leaves. You can use a regular green cabbage if you prefer. Core the cabbage and leave it whole. Bring a large pot of water to boil. When I say large, what I really mean is make sure the entire cabbage will fit into your pot comfortably once it is filled with boiling water. My pot wasn’t quite large enough and once I added the head of cabbage to it, the boiling water spilling onto my stove made quite a mess of it all. So, add the head of cabbage and boil for 8 minutes. Remove from water and let cool in a colander.

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IMG_2358Add olive oil, about 1 tablespoon, to a medium pot or deep frying pan. Heat on medium and add garlic. Cook for about a minute and add the barley. Toast the barley for a minute or so and then pour in the vegetable broth. You can use chicken or beef broth if you prefer, I just used what I had in the fridge. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 25 minutes. After 20 minutes I needed to add a tad bit of water, seeing as the barley was slightly undercooked. Remove from heat and let cool.

I then proceeded to make a quick tomato sauce.

  • 1 can whole plum, peeled tomatoes (796 ml)
  • 2 French shallots, minced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • sugar
  • a little salt

Heat olive oil over medium-low heat and add shallots, cooking for a couple of minutes. Add garlic and cook for a minute. Add  tomatoes, salt and about 1 tablespoon of sugar – my sugar bowl is filled with brown sugar, so that’s what I used. Go ahead and use white if you prefer. Give the tomatoes a quick mash-up. Cook uncovered for 10 minutes.

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Now add the remaining ingredients for the stuffing to the cooled barley. Give it a good mix.

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Remove leaves from the cooled head of cabbage. You’ll need anywhere from 12 to 18, depending on the size of the leaves. Remove the centre vein. You are now ready to stuff! Place a leaf on a board and overlap the centre where the vein was removed.

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Fill with about 1/4 cup to 1/3 cup stuffing. Roll tightly and place in an oven dish with a little of the tomato sauce on the bottom.

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Cover the rolls with remaining sauce. Cover dish with aluminum foil and bake in a 350 degree oven for 1 hour.

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Enjoy…and may they be as comforting and soothing for you as they were for me!

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