Vegetarian Sarmale (Romanian Cabbage Rolls)
Sarmale are tradditional Romanian cabbage rolls that are always served at weddings and during Christmas, as well as other occasions or for no occasion at all. My Romanian friend, Carmen, gave me this family recipe that she altered slighty since becoming vegetarian. It can be a lot of work and a little complicated as you first try rolling/stuffing the cabbage leaves, but after a little practice you'll get it and the results are fantastic!
- 2 large cabbage
- 5 white onions
- 2 carrots
- 1/2 lb rice, washed and drained
- 9 ounces tomato paste
- 1/2 lb granulated gluten or soy crumbles
- 1/4 lb walnuts
- 3 1/2 ounces tomato sauce
- 2-3 bay leaves
- canola oil, to saute the vegetables
- soy sauce or Braggs liquid aminos
- other spices, to your taste (optional)
Filling: Chop 4 of the onions and grate one of the carrots. Saute them for a couple of minutes with about 2 Tbsp oil. Add the rice and continue to saute them for 10 minutes add a little water, but only a small amount to keep it from sticking.
Add the tomato paste, the walnuts, and the granulated gluten. Season it with salt, pepper, a dash of soy sauce, and other seasonings you may want. Heat for a minute or two and then turn off the stove and let cool down a little.
Remove the hard core of the cabbage. Ceave the cabbage in a bowl/pot with hot water and salt for 5-10 minutes (until the leaves can be removed easily, but it should not stay too long because the leaves will be easily broken).
Drain the cabbage and wait for it to cool off until you can work with it. Remove the spine from each leaf (leaving two halves with each leaf about the size of your hand). From the cabbage around 20 medium leaves should result. Some leaves may rip, but don't use those to add filling to, instead set aside.
Chop the remaining onion and carrot, and the extra cabbage leaves that had been set aside because they had torn. Saute them in a large pot with a little oil. Add the tomato sauce and mix well. Put 2-3 bay leaves over this mixture. Turn off the heat and set aside (this is not the filling, but where the cabbage rolls will later be placed).
On every cabbage leaf place about 1 Tbsp of filling (the first mixture sauteed and put aside from direction steps 1 and 2) and roll. Roll by folding one of the width sides over the filling and then roll the length of it. One side should be still open, stuff that side inside with your finger to close. If there is too much filling to stuff the opened side inside then you can remove a little bit of the filling.
In the large pot with the other sauteed vegetables lay down the cabbage rolls in a circle. Don't have them touching the sides of the pot. Put the heart of the cabbage or more chopped cabbage in the center of the pot with the cabbage rolls around it.
The cabbage in the middle is there to keep the cabbage rolls in place while boiling.
Once a circle has been made in the pot you can put more cabbage rolls on top of the last ones making another circle, etc.
Boil enough water in another pot to cover the cabbage rolls. Add the lemon juice to the water if you want to add a little sour taste to them. Add the boiling water and lemon juice to the pot with the samales and make sure the samales are covered by the water. Place a large soup plate over them that covers them all and keeps them in place in the pot.