As I became vegetarian 15 years ago, and now as I move more into the world of veganism, one thing that I struggled with then, as now, is not being able to eat the food of my childhood and my heritage.
My Bubbie (Yiddish for grandma) was the quintessential Jewish cook. The only problem is that in traditional Jewish cooking, every meal is basically meat and potatoes.
I remember when I first became vegetarian, like a scene out of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” it was Thanksgiving and my Zaydie (Yiddish for grandpa) said, “What do you mean you don’t eat turkey?” It was hard for that generation to comprehend what meals would look like because that’s what they grew up with.
One of my Bubbie’s specialties, that I didn’t really like or appreciate as a child, and then couldn’t eat as an adult since I was vegetarian, was galupses (sp? – that’s what my ears always heard). Better known as cabbage rolls. Lately I’ve been trying to think of ways to vegan-ize those traditional Jewish recipes, and this was one I felt would be pretty easy to tackle.
I looked up a bunch of vegan cabbage roll/cabbage bowl recipes, and I wasn’t really satisfied with anything I found, so I decided to go rogue and make things up as I went along.
I took a page from Bubbie’s book and created a “shit” recipe. A “shit” recipe is basically a recipe with no measurements. You put in “a shit” of this and “a shit” of that. And you hope that not only does the recipe turn out, but that you can make it again from memory.
I once asked my Bubbie for a Passover recipe, and then had to call my mom – also an amazing cook – and be like, “Bubbie just gave me a recipe, but it isn’t really a recipe, it’s more like a list of ingredients.” Luckily, my mom had recently watched my Bubbie make that exact recipe and was able to give me more precise measurements.
Serves 2 About 40 minutes
- 1 head of green cabbage (for two (2) people, you only need about six (6) leaves) – that means you can follow my lead and make some pickled cabbage while you’re at it so all that cabbage-y goodness doesn’t go to waste (See below)
- 1/2 of a yellow onion, diced
- 1 bag veggie crumbles (brand of choice)
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 cup (about) tomato sauce + 1 cup (about) tomato sauce
- 2 tbsp (about) tomato paste
- 1 tsp sugar or sugar substitute of your choice, more to taste
- Italian Seasoning, to taste
- Garlic Powder, to taste
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Water – add about a 1/4 cup at a time until the filling is to your desired consistency
- Bring a pot of water to a boil with just enough water to cover the cabbage leaves. (About 10 minutes)
- Once the water is boiling, add the cabbage leaves. Cook for about 5 minutes.
- While the cabbage leaves are boiling, add the oil to a skillet.
- Once the oil is shiny but not crackling, add the onion.
- Cook on medium until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes.
- Once the onion is translucent, add the veggie crumbles.
- Add salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, tomato paste, and 1/2 cup of tomato sauce.
- Stir together until the veggie crumbles start to brown.
- Add water – about 1/4 cup at time – as you go, until the veggie crumble mixture is to your desired consistency.
- Let that mixture rock and roll for a bit, and remove the cabbage from the pot, and drain the water.
- Place the pot back on the stove and add the tomato sauce and sugar. Cook on low.
- Once your veggie crumble mixture is to your liking – about 15 minutes total – you are ready to assemble your rolls.
- Lay out each cabbage leaf. Spoon about a 1/2 cup of the veggie crumble mixture into the cabbage leaf, a bit off-center. Fold one side of the cabbage leaf over, followed by the other, then tuck the ends toward the middle of leaf.
- Once each leaf is stuffed and rolled, place them seam-side down into the pot with the tomato sauce.
- Cook until the sauce is bubbly but not reduced.
- Carefully spoon out each roll and place on a plate.
- Spoon some of the tomato sauce remaining in the pot over each roll.
I wasn’t too jazzed about this recipe. That’s why I wondered if it was a cabbage fail. But true to form, my fiance, who is a true meat and potatoes kind of guy, really enjoyed these.
I wonder what my Bubbie would think of them? I’m not sure they did her version justice, but I think the fact that I’m cooking and thinking of her, and my family, and our heritage, would be enough, regardless of the finished product.
And I guess, though, that one failure or perceived failure, can lead to something great. I had so much cabbage left over that I found, and made, a random recipe for quick pickled cabbage. And let me tell you, this is a winner.