The tomatoes cook down with the honey and cinnamon, yielding a fragrant sauce that coats each roll with just enough sweetness.
When I was growing up, my mother sometimes made traditional beef cabbage rolls. She would mix ground beef, rice and spices, roll it up in cabbage leaves, and cook them slow and low, in a spiced tomato sauce. My grandmother made a similar dish. It's a traditional Eastern-European dish, with endless variation possibilities. Some people add sauerkraut, some (like my friend Tori) combine chicken with the beef, and and some even go so far as to add ketchup or molasses to their sauce.
These are not my mother's or grandmother's cabbage rolls (though I'm certain she'd approve of them), and they're probably not your mother's or grandmother's cabbage rolls either. They are, however, pure comfort food.
In my version, I swap out the cabbage for kale, skip the rice, and stir spicy Asian chili sauce into my meat. The tomatoes cook down with the honey and cinnamon, yielding a fragrant sauce that coats each roll with just enough sweetness.
These are great on their own, or they can be served with buttered egg noodles, rice pilaf or potatoes.
- 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil Pantry
- 1 onion, diced finely, divided $0.50
- 4 cloves garlic, minced, divided Pantry
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon $1.50 for 1 oz.
- 2 14-oz. cans crushed tomatoes $3
- 2 tbsp honey Pantry
- 1 tbsp plus 2 tsp apple cider vinegar $1.50 for 16 oz.
- 2 large bunches of lacinato or other large-leaf, non-curly kale, rinsed and patted dry $3
- 1 lb ground beef (80/20 or 85/15) $4.50
- 1 large handful fresh cilantro or flat-leaf parsley leaves $1 for a bunch
- 2 teaspoons (or more to taste) Asian chili sauce $1.50 for 8 oz.
- 1 egg, lightly beaten $1.50 for 6
- salt and pepper Pantry
- 2 tsp soy sauce Pantry
Recipe Serves 4
- In a large pot (make sure it has a fitted lid), heat the olive oil over medium heat.
- Add about 2/3 of the onion, half of the garlic and the cinnamon and stir well.
- Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions begin to soften, about 5 minutes.
- Add the crushed tomatoes, honey and apple cider vinegar and stir well.
- Reduce heat to low, cover and let cook while you prepare the kale and beef.
- Use a sharp knife to gently slice the kale leaves off of their stems. Discard the stems and set the leaves aside. These will be wrapping for your meat filling.
- To make the beef mixture, combine the remaining onions and garlic with the ground beef, the cilantro or parsley, the chili sauce, egg, 1 liberal pinch each of salt and pepper, and the soy sauce.
- Use your hands to combine the meat mixture well.
- Wash your hands well.
- Lay a kale leaf smooth side down.
- Use your hands (it helps if they are a little bit wet) to shape 2-3 tbsp of the beef mixture (depending on the size of your kale leaf--just use your judgment) into a cylinder shape.
- Starting at the widest part of the kale, roll the meat up, tucking the ends in, so the meat is completely encapsulated inside of the kale.
- Repeat with the remaining beef and kale.
- Season the sauce with salt and pepper to taste, then place the kale rolls, seam-side-down into the sauce.
- Turn the heat up to medium-low, cover the pot and cook the rolls for 25-30 minutes, or until the kale is soft and the meat is just cooked through.
- Use a slotted spoon to remove the rolls from the sauce and turn the heat up to medium-high.
- Cook the sauce for about 5 minutes, or until it thickens a bit.
- To serve, spoon most of the sauce into bowls or onto plates and top with the kale rolls. Spoon a little more sauce on top of the rolls.
- Serve immediately.