Stuffed Cabbage Leaves
It was another windy, drizzly day in George-Town, on Great Exuma in the Bahamas. My husband, Billy, and I’d finished chores aboard Bonnie Christine, our Catalina 380. Bored, we headed into town to investigate an event we’d heard about: the Exuma Agribusiness and Horticultural Expo. Immediately, we lost each other in the crowd.
The Expo was much like the agricultural fair in my Massachusetts hometown, but on a smaller scale. It featured livestock, a judged fruit-and-vegetable competition, and informational seminars. Vendors cooked up such Bahamian specialties as conch fritters, conch salad, and crawfish salad. Island farmers displayed homegrown produce for sale. I chatted with two local women, both of whom beamed with pride over their beautiful peppers, onions, cabbages, and pumpkins. They’d just cut the huge cabbages that morning, and the vibrant color told me how fresh they were. I asked for the smallest one they had, and for two Bahamian dollars got an enormous head. Another dollar bought me some onions and peppers.
Hunger lured me to the conch-fritter vendor, then to the Girl Guides, from whom I procured a delicious cup of mango-apple juice. Sated, I sat in on a seminar about growing “lettuce substitutes”—seed shoots that could be harvested in just seven days.
Then I spied Billy. He’d been listening attentively to a seminar about farming in the Bahamas, which resulted in conjecture about whether we should purchase some land, start growing feed grains, and get some goats, cows, and chickens. We bought two more cups of juice; Billy took a sip and asked if he could put rum in it. I suggested maybe we’d had enough of the Expo.
Back on the boat, I concentrated on preparing a meal based on the fantastic cabbage I’d purchased. I peeled off the outer leaves, chopped the onions and peppers, smashed garlic—and then the sun came out. Every cloud in the sky disappeared. It was the first moment of calm and sunshine since we’d arrived at George-Town. I abandoned the cooking project and hit the deck for some yoga. So much for concentrating!
Eventually, I made these stuffed cabbage leaves for dinner, which were as delicious as any meal we might have had in town.
Stuffed Cabbage Leaves**
1 head cabbage
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 green pepper, diced
1 pound ground beef, turkey, pork,
Salt, pepper, thyme to taste
1 egg, beaten
1 handful raisins
1 cup rice (cooked)
1 32-ounce jar prepared tomato sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar
Core cabbage and parboil, whole, in a large kettle for about 8 minutes or until outer leaves can be easily removed. Cool. Remove 12 leaves and set aside. Dice remaining cabbage to yield 2 cups. Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Sauté diced cabbage, onion, garlic, and pepper until tender. Set aside. In the same pan, brown meat; season to taste. When cooked ingredients are cool, mix them together with the egg, raisins, and rice. Lay the leaves flat and put about 1/4 cup of mixture on top of each. Roll up from bottom of leaf, folding outer edges in as you go. Mix tomato sauce with sugar; add water if necessary. Place stuffed leaves in a shallow, lightly oiled casserole dish. Spread sauce evenly over all. Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 350 degrees F until bubbly, 30 to 45 minutes, or until cabbage can be easily pierced with a fork. Serves four to six.