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Cabbage Rolls With Lamb and Pine Nuts

Cabbage Rolls With Lamb and Pine Nuts
Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times

It was the first real Sunday of fall. You could tell because of the cool mist in the morning, the pale blue of the afternoon sky and the fact that there was a really bad football game on the tube. ... Read more

Total time: 2 1/2 hours | Serves 6 to 8
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • 3/4 cup rice
  • 2/3 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 cups white wine, divided
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1 (3-pound) cabbage
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallots
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes

Step 1Toast the pine nuts in a small dry skillet over medium heat until they are fragrant, about 5 minutes.

Step 2In a large mixing bowl, combine the pine nuts, lamb, rice, cilantro, cumin, salt, egg, 1/2 cup of wine and pepper to taste. Stir to mix thoroughly, but don't overmix or the rolls will be heavy.

Step 3Leaving the cabbage head whole, cut out as much of the core as you can. Dip the whole cabbage head in a large pan of boiling water until the outer leaves soften, about 30 seconds. Remove the cabbage from the water, carefully remove those outer leaves and set them aside on a towel to drain. Repeat this process until you come to the inner leaves that are very convoluted and thick. Shred those and set them aside.

Step 4Meanwhile, in a large skillet with a heat-proof handle, cook the shallots in the olive oil over medium heat until they soften, about 3 minutes. Add the shredded cabbage and cook until the cabbage is wilted and just beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the remaining 1 cup of wine and cook until it loses its raw smell, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and heat through. The sauce should be slightly soupy.

Step 5Set 1 medium-sized cabbage leaf flat on a work surface with the core end facing away from you. Cut a "V" in the base, removing the tough part of the core. Place 2 to 3 tablespoons of the meat mixture in the "cup" of the leaf at its tip. Roll once, then fold in the sides and continue rolling. Set aside seam-side down. Repeat using all of the medium-sized leaves, then using the larger leaves, cutting them in half if necessary to make consistent-sized rolls. You will probably have some cabbage leaves left over.

Step 6Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Step 7When the tomato sauce is ready, place the prepared cabbage rolls seam-side down in the pan. Go ahead and pack them tightly, and, if necessary, you can even stack one or two on top. Arrange any unused cabbage leaves in a single layer on top of the rolls. Cover the pan with a lid and place it in the oven. Bake until the rolls are thoroughly cooked and fragrant, about 1 1/2 hours.

Step 8Remove the rolls from the oven and let them cool for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the loose leaves from the top and then carefully spoon the hot cabbage rolls onto a serving platter. Pour the sauce over the top and serve right away.


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