Vegan Polish Stuffed Cabbage (Halupki, Golumpki, Pigs-In-A-Blanket)

One of the things I miss most about my hometown is the food.  Populated by descendants of European immigrants brought to the anthracite area of Pennsylvania as cheap labor for the booming coal industry in the late 1800’s – early 1900’s, the Wyoming Valley is rich in ethnic heritage and the most wonderful foods you can imagine.  These simple peasant dishes will not be found in any fine restaurant, but families still gather to make and feast on recipes that traveled from Europe and  have been handed down for generations.

I thought Halupki, pure Northeastern PA soul food, was gone from my life forever when I gave up meat, but I have found that with a little imagination and experimentation I can still have my Pigs-In-A-Blanket (as we called them when I was a child) and eat them, too!  This recipe is the result of sheer determination and stubbornness, since I also decided to not use prepackaged fake meat for the traditional ground beef filling. I think this one is a winner. It takes a long time to prepare, so the best thing to do is plan ahead and do it in two stages.  The first day make the brown rice and  Medley’s Vegan Oat Burgers; the second day you can prepare the cabbage, filling, and sauce and assemble the cabbage rolls. It truly is a labor of love (now I know why it took my mother, aunts, and grandmother all together to make these for family gatherings), but to make things easier prepare extra brown rice to freeze, and note that one Oat Burgers recipe is enough for two Halupki casseroles, so making it next time will not be as time-consuming.  Here we go:

MEDLEY’S  VEGAN OAT BURGERS

These are the tastiest vegan burgers ever — on a bun with your favorite toppings or as a substitute for chopped sirloin with mushroom gravy.  This recipe makes a lot so you can freeze some for another time.  The recipe comes from my niece (a wonderful cook just like her mother) who got it from the restaurant where she first enjoyed them. I veganized it.

In a food processor separately grind:

2 c. rolled oats

1 c. walnuts (not too fine, chunky is better)

1 lg. onion

Add:

2 c. rolled oats

2 Tbs. ground flaxseed & 6 Tbs. warm water (mix together and allow to sit a few minutes until thickened)

1 tsp sea salt

1 tsp ground sage

1 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp pepper

1 c. unsweetened soy or almond milk (or just enough to hold it all together)

Let mixture sit for 20 minutes.  Form into patties (slightly wet hands so they don’t stick) and brown in olive oil. Then add 2 cups of water with enough soy sauce or Bragg’s Liquid Aminos (about 3 Tbs) to taste.  Pour this over the burgers and simmer uncovered until liquid is absorbed, turning once or twice. Enjoy!

Halupki FILLING:

1/2 recipe Medley’s VEGAN Oat Burgers chopped up after cooking (freeze the other half for next time)

1  – 1 1/2 c. cooked brown rice

1 Tbs parsley

1 Tbs sweet paprika

Saute together: 6 oz. chopped Portobello mushrooms, 1 lg. onion, and 2 Tbs. Annie’s Organic Worsteshire Sauce.  Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl and season to taste with sea salt and cayenne pepper.

Halupki SAUCE:

1 – 10 3/4 oz. can tomato soup and an equal amount to crushed tomatoes

2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice or vinegar

1 soup can water

Mix all together and season with sea salt and pepper as desired.

Method:

(Dealing with a whole head of CABBAGE can be intimidating — don’t worry, you will win).  Core the cabbage and submerge the whole thing in a large pot of boiling water.  It will be somewhat bouyant so you will want to turn it occasionally so that the leaves soften evenly. Cook until the outer leaves become tender, then you can start to peel the leaves off one at a time, and place them on a clean towel to drain. (You can take the cabbage head out of the water to do this, then return it to the water to cook a little while longer until more leaves can be removed.) Repeat until all leaves are removed.

When cabbage leaves are cool enough to handle: In each leaf place 2 – 3 heaping Tbs.filling, tuck in sides and roll to cover filling.  Place cabbage rolls in a large oblong glass baking dish (seam side down).  Pack them tightly together so they don’t unroll.

Pour sauce over all the rolls and cover with aluminum foil.  Bake @ 375 degrees for 45 minutes, or until easily pierced with a fork. This recipe makes a lot (about 30 cabbage rolls).

Recipe: Pierogie Reuben Casserole

   The inspiration for this vegetarian recipe was found on a box of Mrs. T’s frozen pierogies. If you don’t know what they are, then you aren’t familiar with Polish food. Pierogies are the Slavic version of ravioli. Inside two layers of pasta is a filling of potatoes and cheese, potatoes and onion, potatoes cheese and onions, potatoes and sauerkraut, or even a fruit filling such as prunes or cherries. They are usually triangular shaped, and the potato varieties are the most common. I grew up on homemade pierogies, but thankfully they can now be puchased in most grocery stores in the frozen food section. To make them from scratch is an all day project. Pierogies can be boiled, fried, or baked. This recipe is so easy because you can use the frozen pierogies with no advance preparation at all. It goes together in minutes!

Ingredients:

About 20 frozen pierogies (Mrs. T’s tastes most like the ones my grandmother used to make, so I always use that brand although there are others out there)

One 2 lb. bag of sauerkraut (get this in the refrigerated deli section of your grocery store; it’s always better than the canned variety), drained

6 slices of vegetarian Swiss cheese (I used Galaxy Nutritional Foods Veggie Slices)

One 10 oz. package Boca Meatless Italian Sausages (cut in half and then thinly sliced lengthwise)

One cup Thousand Island Dressing (look for vegetarian)

   Layer half the pirogies in an oblong glass casserole. Top with half the sauerkraut,  meatless sausage, Veggie Slices, and 1/2 cup dressing; then another layer of pierogies and the remaining ingredients as before. Top with rye croutons if desired, or simply serve with warm rye bread.

   Bake at 350 degrees for 30 – 40 minutes until hot and bubbling. Serves 6 – 8 people.