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Stuffed Napa Cabbage Braised in Tomato Sauce

Simmered cabbage leaves are rolled around a turkey filling spiced with cumin and cayenne. Tomato sauce keeps the rolls moist while they cook.

Source: Martha Stewart Living, May 2000


  • 1 cup uncooked barley
  • 2 heads Napa cabbage
  • 1 large shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 rib celery, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 green, red, or yellow bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 tomato, seeded, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1 pound lean ground turkey
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • Pinch of ground nutmeg
  • Pinch of ground cloves
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped into 1/2-inch dice
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 fourteen-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 2 teaspoons light-brown sugar
  • 2 sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley, plus 2 tablespoons chopped
  • 2 sprigs fresh oregano, plus 2 tablespoons chopped


  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Bring a pan of water to a boil. Stir in barley; reduce to simmer. Cook until tender, 20 to 30 minutes. Drain in a colander or fine sieve, and rinse with cold water. Cover, and set aside.

  2. Fill saucepan with water; boil. Remove cabbage's large outer leaves.You'll need 24 large leaves. Add half to boiling water; simmer until tender, about 4 minutes. Drain in a colander; cool. Repeat with remaining leaves; set aside.

  3. In a large bowl, combine shallot, carrot, celery, pepper, tomato, raisins, turkey, cumin, coriander, cayenne, nutmeg, cloves, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and 1 cup reserved barley. Using hands, mix. Chill until ready to assemble.

  4. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a highsided saute pan on medium heat.Add onion and garlic; cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Add tomato sauce, brown sugar, parsley sprigs, and oregano sprigs. Stir to combine; bring to a boil. Reduce to gentle simmer; cover. Cook while assembling cabbage. Once cooked, the sauce can be pureed if desired.

  5. Lay 2 cabbage leaves side by side, slightly overlapping, on a work surface. (If leaves are large, use one.) Place a heaping 1/3 cup turkey mixture on the stem end. Roll into a tight cylinder, folding in ends. Repeat with remaining leaves and mixture. Uncover sauce; place cabbage rolls in a baking pan. Spoon sauce over tops; cover. Bake 1 hour.

  6. Meanwhile, toss reserved barley and remaining teaspoon oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Cover; set aside.

  7. After 1 hour, remove rolls from oven. Serve over room-temperature barley mixture, topped with sauce and chopped herbs.

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