Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Wild Food: Golumpki-Inspired Casserole with Bastard Cabbage

During the foraging season, I like to eat something wildcrafted every day. The best way to make this happen is large dishes cooked up once or twice a week, and heated for leftovers as lunches and rush-night dinners. And casseroles are great for this.

Golumpki, or golabki, are a Polish dish of meat and rice, wrapped in cabbage and cooked in tomato sauce. Many cultures have similar dishes; I've had the Iranian version with mint and lamb, and there are others. Though simple in concept, all the wrapping is rather labor-intensive. And the oddly shaped, deeply lobed leaves of bastard cabbage would never work for wrapping. So by doing a deconstructed golumpki casserole, it's much easier and comes together much quicker.

Bastard cabbage is everywhere in Texas right now, covering entire fields, and vacant lots, like this one.

Lots of cultures have a Golumpki-type dish, including Yiddish, Hungarian, Russian, Turkish, Iranian and Ukrainian. Plus the flavors vary by region within those countries. I blended together the spices and vinegars that I liked to come up with this dish, but feel free to try whatever appeals to you.

I like this casserole because it's a complete meal in every serving: a ton of veggies (both leafy greens and anti-oxident rich tomatoes), carbohydrates from the rice, and protein from the meat. 

I use instant brown rice as another time-saver. You can use jarred tomato sauce here, and save even more time. And for more authentic Polish flavor, mix ground sausage in with the beef. For variations, use lamb, pork, turkey, or any mix! 

Deconstructed Golumpki with Bastard Cabbage 

Serves 6-8. Also reheats well.

1.5 lbs. ground meat, I used beef
8 cups of bastard cabbage leaves, flowers, and small stems, roughly chopped
1.5 cups of cooked brown rice
7 roma (plum) tomatoes, roughly chopped *
3 jumbo (or 5 regular) garlic cloves, minced
1 jumbo white or sweet yellow onion, diced
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 tbs ground coriander seeds, optional
1 tps ground fennel seeds, or 2 tsp fennel powder, optional
1 tbs sea salt
1 tps smoked paprika
1 bay leaf
Olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the bastard cabbage and boil, stirring occasionally, for 3-5 minutes. (It will probably take a while for the big pot of water to boil. While you wait, move on to steps 2+)
  2. In a separate sauté pan, bring the tomatoes (with seeds and juice), seasonings, salt and vinegars to a boil. Continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes break down and the sauce is reduced by half. 
  3. Preheat the oven to 350.
  4. In a separate sauté pan, heat some olive oil. Add your onion and cook, stirring, until translucent. Add the garlic, and continue to cook for 2-3 minutes, then add your meat. Cook, stirring, until all the meat is evenly browned. 
  5. Mix the cooked rice into the meat/onion mixture.
  6. When your bastard cabbage is cooked, drain and spread half on the bottom of a 9x13x2 baking pan, which you have coated with butter or olive oil. Add your browned meat, onion, rice mix, evenly spread across the top. Cover with half of the tomato/vinegar sauce. 
  7. Cover evenly with the remaining bastard cabbage, and top it off with the rest of the tomato mix. Bake in the oven at 350 for 35 minutes. Allow to sit, covered, for 10-15 minutes to reabsorb juices. 
It doesn't hold together too well, but it tastes good!
* For a faster preparation, substitute diced canned tomatoes or tomato paste. If you use tomato paste, add 1 cup of water or broth when you add your vinegar.

All seasonings and vinegar mixes are up to you! This is what I used but feel free to experiment.

Paleo/low carb variations: omit the rice and replace the vinegar with some of the water from blanching the bastard cabbage. 

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