We received this dramatically variegated January King Cabbage from our Open Oak Farm CSA that seemed too beautiful to shred. The broad leaves inspired me to try making stuffed cabbage and the purple hue seemed to call out for our purple barley from Lonesome Whistle Farm. Many of the stuffed cabbage recipes I looked at simmered the bundles in tomato sauce, but instead I let the tomatoes creep into the filling and simmer with the barley and some end pieces of Christmas ham. For a vegetarian version, one could include pungent dried mushrooms instead.
A cup of barley made enough filling for about eight cabbage leaves, although my cabbage head yielded only four leaves that were wrapping-sized. I'm sure the filling would have frozen well if we hadn't polished it off as a tasty risotto lunch. I softened the cabbage leaves by steaming them on top of the barley and then filled them with the cooked barley and crumbled feta cheese. After wrapping up these charming parcels, I simmered them (same pot, fewer dishes) in some red wine to infuse the cabbage, melt the cheese, and produce a tasty reduced wine sauce accompaniment.
Barley Stuffed Cabbage
1 cup hulled barley
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 leek, white and pale green part washed and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
2 anchovy fillets
1 cup red wine (divided use)
1 15 ounce can diced tomatoes
1 small chunk of ham or ham hock
1 cup boiling water
salt to taste
8 large cabbage leaves
4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
1. If you get a chance, soak the barley overnight and the next morning, remove any loose hulls that floated to the surface and drain. If you don't get a chance to presoak the barley, rinse well and drain.
2. Warm a Dutch oven over medium low heat, add the butter and olive oil, and saute the chopped leeks until very soft and caramelized, but avoid browning them. Add the garlic and saute another minute. Now add the anchovy fillets, mashing them and cook another minute. Then add 1/4 cup red wine and cook until it simmers down. Finally, add the diced tomatoes, ham, a generous pinch of salt, about a cup of boiling water, and the drained barley. Turn the heat to low and simmer, covered, until the barley is soft, about 90 minutes. Stir occasionally and add more water if it looks too dry. You could also cook this in a slow cooker on low for about 3 hours.
3. Once the barley is soft and the consistency of a thick porridge, lightly steam the cabbage leaves for about five minutes by layering them gently on top of the barley and recovering the pot. When they feel pliable, remove the cabbage leaves to a plate. Shred the ham and stir back into the barley. Taste and adjust seasoning.
4. Spread out a cabbage leaf on a plate and spoon in about four soup spoons of the barley mixture. Sprinkle with feta cheese. Now fold the edges of the cabbage leaf up into a parcel. Repeat with the remaining cabbage leaves, until you have used up the barley filling (or transfer the remaining filling to a storage container to use another day).
5. Add the remaining red wine to the Dutch oven and gently transfer the cabbage parcels into the pot. Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes until the cabbage is very soft and the feta cheese inside has melted. Uncover and simmer for another 10 minutes to allow the red wine to reduce. Serve hot with a drizzle of the reduced red wine sauce.
Other cabbage recipes
Pad Thai with Arrowhead Cabbage
Crunchy Carrot, Jicama, and Radish Slaw
Jacob's Cattle Bean and Ham Stew with Roasted Vegetable Garnish
Braised Red Cabbage