In my never-ending quest for ways to eat more vegetables without seeming like I'm eating vegetables, I attempted to tackle the traditional cabbage roll.
Because with all stuffed vegetable dishes I usually remove the stuffing and discard the vegetable shell, I decided to turn the cabbage roll recipe into a soup. This way, by using shredded cabbage instead of whole leaves, the "offensive" vegetable would be nearly undetectable providing the flavor I seek without the large, usually slimy leaves.
Aside from avoiding the vegetables, one of the reasons I wanted to create a meal that included cabbage is in part because of the New Year's tradition. The superstition says that eating cabbage at the beginning of the new year will bring good luck and prosperity. Cabbage rolls are one of the most common forms of this meal. Some families will place a 50 cent piece or other silver money in one of the rolls before it is cooked giving an extra surprise - and possibly dentist bill - for the new year.
What I set out to do was make a soup that had meatballs similar to the stuffing in cabbage rolls I've helped my mother make for previous New Year's Day dinners. The main part of the soup would, of course, be nearly the same as the sauce in which the rolls are cooked. Instead of using large leaves of cabbage, I wanted to use the bag of shredded cabbage and have it cook down in the sauce. This is where I hit my first snag.
Because of the series of snow-namis that have resulted in the near snow-mageddon in the region, the local grocery store I frequent was want for bags of the cabbage. I resolved, therefore, to purchase a head of cabbage and shred the thing myself. My father, the produce manager of my hometown grocery store, suggested I use Napa cabbage because of its lighter flavor. Shredding the cabbage proved problematic as well, but it was resolved by simply chopping the head of cabbage leaf end first.
My second speed bump on the road to soup was with the meatballs.
Cabbage Roll Soup
1 lb. ground beef
2 cans tomato soup
1 can beef broth
1 can sweet red wine
1 can water
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, minced
1 bag shredded cabbage or 1 head Napa cabbage, chopped
1 cup rice
1/2 cup bread crumbs
Combine ground beef, egg, bread crumbs, rice, half of the onion and one clove of garlic in a large bowl and mix well.
In a small stock pot, combine soup, broth, wine, water, second clove of garlic and cabbage.
Roll meat mixture into golf ball shape and add to pot. Bring soup to boil, then reduce temperature and cover.
Cook for 45 minutes to an hour, stirring often. Meatballs may break up during cooking.
Serve in a bread bowl or over mashed potatoes.
I thought the rice would act similar to the bread crumbs, providing an adhesive for the meat, onion and garlic. I was mistaken. I added an egg and half a cup of bread crumbs. This still didn't keep the meat together. The result, however, wasn't as disastrous as it could have been.
The end result was something very delicious and the ingredients went together very well creating a soup that was pretty much what I set out to create.