|Tronchuda Beira cabbage|
The big harvest of Tronchuda Beira leaves that I gleaned from the bolting plants last week has prompted me to explore the possibilites of using this cabbage. My favorite way to use it is in soup, as in the traditional Portuguese Caldo Verde, or perhaps with beans and sausage or in Georgeann Brennan's Mountain Cabbage Soup. But there's just so much soup that you can eat in a week or 10 days. Some of the leaves that I harvested were quite big so I thought they might be good for stuffing and indeed they are. The thick stems of Tronchuda Beira are usually tender, but before using them you should slice off a piece and taste it to make sure that it hasn't become fibrous.
This preparation was based on what I had on hand, so the meat is a mild Italian sausage and I used some Halloumi cheese. I think that any mild fresh sausage would be good or any mild cheese that melts well. Notice that I didn't add any salt to this preparation, the sausage is already seasoned and Halloumi is a salty cheese, and the tomato sauce is already seasoned. Lacking sausage I would use plain ground meat, probably pork but turkey or lamb would also be to my taste. In that case I would use more seasonings - salt and pepper and perhaps more herbs or some spices, perhaps some smoked paprika.
3 very large Tronchuda Beira leaves, about 14 inches wide, stems and thick central mid ribs removed and reserved, you should have 6 large half leaves
1/4 cup rice (arborio)
1/4 cup boiling water
1/2 large onion, diced
fennel seeds, about a teaspoon
dried oregano, about a teaspoon
1 pound mild Italian sausage
fresh parsley (next time!)
6 slices cheese (Halloumi this time, any melting cheese should work)
2 cups tomato sauce (Marcella Hazan's with onion and butter, there's always some in my freezer)
Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Blanch the cabbage leaves for 1 minute and refresh in cold water. Drain and pat dry.
In the meantime, pour the boiling water over the rice and set it aside to soak.
Dice the cabbage stems and mid ribs. Heat a medium sized saute pan over medium heat, add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, sizzle the fennel seeds a few seconds, add the diced onion and cabbage stems and the dried oregano, saute until tender and starting to turn translucent. Set aside to cool.
Mix the cooled vegetables, Italian sausage, and drained rice together with your hands to fully incorporate but don't overmix. Divide into 6 equal portions and loosely form each portion into a small loaf. (Note, I was going to add fresh chopped parsley at this point but forgot).
Lay the cabbage leaf halves out lengthwise and place one slice of cheese in the center of each leaf, place a loaf of the sausage mixture on top of the cheese, fold the bottom portion of the cabbage leaf over the sausage mixture and roll over once, fold the short edges in and roll over again to form a package. Don't worry about making it too neat, just tuck any stray edges in under the package. Stuff the rest of the leaf halves and then place them in a baking dish that holds them comfortably without crowding, you want some space between each roll. Pour the tomato sauce over and around the rolls. Bake for about an hour. Serve hot with some of the tomato sauce spooned over the rolls.
Makes 6 small portions or 3 generous ones. (Dave had two portions, I was happy with one.)