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Stuffed Cabbage in Cinnamon Apricot Sauce

January 15, 2011

Yesterday was our annual Chinese New Years party, AKA the International Dumpling party. What started as a traditional and methodical feast of pork dumplings gradually evolved into a “bring whatever you want and call it a dumpling” kind of affair.

Don’t worry—unorthodox as it seems to call pierogi, samosas and even chocolate truffles “dumplings,” the Chinese dumplings are still the main draw, and the only dish prepared during the party. Guests begin arriving at 6 to chop meat, scallions and cabbage for the filling, make the chili-oil dipping sauce, and of course, wrap the dumplings.

But to be honest, you know how I feel about meat, and being almost indifferent to pork, I wanted to make sure the vegetarians were well-fed while simultaneously embracing my Jewish side.

First, I made four appetizers purely to clear out what was in the fridge (kitchen renovations start next week): traditional tahini hummus, pistachio hummus, curried peanut hummus, and a beet-goat’s milk yogurt raita with walnuts.

I would post recipes for these, but I’m lazy, and really, the recipes would all be the same. Chickpeas, some kind of nut butter, lemon or lime juice, and spices. A drizzle of olive oil. Dunzo.

What I do want to post a recipe for is an Octopus Gourmet original, a kind of Jewish-Persian hybrid of stuffed cabbage. We end up with so many starchy dumplings that it seemed worth wrapping something in leaves rather than dough.

I have no idea if it’s even remotely authentic—I realized halfway through that not only did we not have enough canned tomatoes, but we had no cilantro, dried mint, or even cumin. I made do with what I had.

I decided to change things up and make the filling with kasha instead of rice, to make it a little lighter and more interesting. I adore cinnamon and dried apricots in Moroccan tagines, so I threw those into the sauce, plus some red lentils to thicken. The lentils are optional, but they do add some body to what I guess you could call a ragout.

Not to toot my own horn, but I would make this again in a second. It’s spicy, sweet, a little bit acidic, and even when the cabbage bundles fall apart, it becomes a kind of vegetable stew.

Kasha and chickpea-stuffed cabbage in cinnamon-spiked apricot tomato sauce (I WAS VERY SHORT ON INGREDIENTS)


  • 1 large savoy cabbage, cored

For the filling:

  • 1/2 cup kasha
  • 1 cup cooked chickpeas, mashed with a fork
  • 1/4 cup raisins, optional
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3 scallions, chopped (optional)
  • 1 1/2 cups red wine
  • 2 tomatoes, or 1/4 cup of canned chopped tomatoes, which was all I had
  • 1 TBSP tomato paste
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp grated ginger
  • a pinch allspice
  • 1/2 tsp coriander
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • Some kind of leaf: parsley would be ideal, but all I had were celery leaves
  • Salt and pepper

For the sauce:

  • 2 TBSP olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 tsp cumin (or spice blend with a lot of cumin in it)
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp coriander
  • A pinch allspice
  • Paprika
  • Red pepper flakes, optional
  • 2 cans of diced tomatoes (I was forced to use 2 cans of tomato soup instead of the other can of diced)
  • Water or stock for covering (I used chickpea stock)
  • 1 TBSP tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup red lentils
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped dried apricots
  • Salt and pepper
  • Lemon juice


  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add the cored cabbage. Boil until the outer leaves are loose and carefully take out.
  • Peel off outer leaves and add cabbage back to pot. Keep doing this until all leaves are pliable, but not mushy.
  • Combine all the ingredients for the filling in a separate bowl.
  • Make the sauce: heat oil in a wide casserole until hot, then add onions and garlic, followed by spices.
  • Cover with red wine and bring to a boil,  then add tomatoes, followed by apricots and lentils.
  • Boil a few minutes more, then simmer, uncovered, while you stuff the leaves.
  • Cut large cabbage leaves in half. Fill each with 1-2 tsp of filling and roll tightly.
  • Carefully layer the cabbage in the sauce and cover with additional water and season with salt, pepper, and additional paprika.
  • Bring to a boil again, then simmer, covered, until filling is cooked and leaves are tender– about thirty minutes.
  • Serve.
6 Comments leave one →
  1. fiz permalink
    January 15, 2011 6:50 pm

    your great grandmother Ruth was very proud of her stuffed cabbage (traditional). I’ve discovered that there are 3 Yiddish names for the dish: Prakas, holishkes, and galooptchy — but she called it holishkes. Yours sounded absolutely yummy. Looking forward to tasting it one day.

  2. Erika permalink
    January 15, 2011 8:17 pm

    I can confirm…this was absolutely yummy. The spices and textures were awesome. I was a happy, well-fed vegetarian at the dumpling party 🙂 It was lovely to meet you! Great blog.

  3. January 27, 2011 11:59 pm

    Wow, in the past day, like 3 people have sent me that article. Nabokov lovers unite!!


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