Remember that time I shared a smoothie recipe in the middle of a polar vortex? Consider this post my apology. Go ahead and laugh Northerners, but with 3-5 inches of snow headed towards South Carolina this Tuesday, we are basically planning for the apocalypse. For those who are trapped inside (laugh again Yanks) this hearty casserole is sure to keep you warm.
Instead of the traditional meat and rice filling, this recipe for stuffed cabbage is filled with sauteed potatoes, onions, creamy ricotta cheese and basil. If you thought potatoes fell into the category of “if it’s white, don’t bite,” you’ll be pleased to read this post.
Potatoes just might be the most under-rated and misunderstood of all foods. First cultivated in the Andean region of South America up to 10,000 years ago, the potato was, and still is, a staple crop for the region. In fact, almost 4,000 varieties are grown in Peru today. When I visited a farmer’s market in Cuzco, I was amazed to see three, forty-foot long tables, piled high with hundreds of different potatoes. My personal favorite was one suspicious wives fed to their husbands before a night on the town, as it interfered with their, umm, performance. Think anti-viagra.
Potatoes’ poor status isn’t a new thing. After sailors brought the potato back to Europe from the New World, very few people would eat them, as potatoes were thought to be poisonous along with other nightshade vegetables. In fact, potatoes were even accused of causing leprosy! Eventually, the hearty and nutritious plant became popular, especially among the poor, as it is easy to grow and stores well. Now potatoes are the most widely consumed vegetable in the US, although mostly as chips or fries.
This association with fast food and greasy bags of crunchy snack food is probably a big part of potatoes bad reputation. Underneath the layers of grease and salt, there’s a healthy food you shouldn’t feel guilty about loving!
Put down that sugary orange juice – one medium potato contains 70% your daily needs for vitamin C. Most people associate vitamin C with colds, and although it hasn’t been shown to prevent colds, it can shorten the duration and possibly lessen symptoms. As an antioxidant vitamin, intake of vitamin C rich foods has been associated with a reduced risk of cancer. Vitamin C rich foods also seems to protect against heart disease by preventing oxidative damage to blood vessel walls and possibly lowering blood pressure.
Potatoes are a rich source of potassium, with 25% your daily needs in one medium potato. Potassium is a mineral known for it’s ability to lower blood pressure levels. Think of it as the anti-salt.
Always eat the skin, which is where most of the antioxidants are concentrated. Purple potatoes recently made a name for themselves as an antioxidant superfood, but even the lowly white potato is a rich source, including carotenoids and flavonoids. In fact, one study listed the Russet potato as one of the top 20 sources of antioxidants.
As a diabetes educator, I am often asked about potatoes effect on blood sugar. The glycemic index, an (imperfect) marker of how foods effect blood sugar, shows potatoes vary quite drastically depending on the type and preparation. Not surprisingly, instant potatoes, stripped of most fiber, have the greatest effect on blood glucose, while potatoes that have been cooked and cooled then consumed cold or reheated, have a fairly moderate effect on blood glucose. With five grams of fiber in a medium potato, it is nothing like the white rice and white bread it’s often grouped with. I recommend (small portions) of potatoes to people with pre-diabetes and diabetes, as it’s a much healthier alternative to commonly consumed refined grains.
- 1 large head green cabbage
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 medium red onions, in ½-inch dice
- 6 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 lb Yukon gold or red potatoes, cut into ½-inch dice
- 1 cup organic ricotta cheese
- 1 cup finely slivered basil leaves
- ¼ cup chopped Italian parsley
- 2 cups tomato sauce, bottled or homemade
- ½ cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. While it comes to a boil, prepare a large bowl of ice water. Once boiling, drop the whole head of cabbage in. Cook until tender, about 5-6 minutes. Carefully remove and transfer to ice bath. Once cool, remove the outer 12 leaves from the cabbage and set aside. Chop the rest of the cabbage into ¼-inch pieces and set aside.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- In a large pot, head oil on medium heat. Add onions, garlic, potatoes and the raw and cooked cabbage. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are soft and browned, about 12-15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and set aside or refrigerate to cool.
- When the mixture is cool, stir in ricotta, basil and parsley. Pour 2 cups tomato sauce in the bottom of a large casserole dish, preferably one with a lid. If you don't have a lid, just use aluminum foil. Place about ½ cup of the potato mixture in the middle of a cabbage leaf, then wrap it up as you would a burrito. Place snuggly in the casserole dish with seam side down, securing with a toothpick if needed. Repeat with remaining cabbage leaves and filling.
- Cover with a lid or wrap with tin foil. Place in the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven, sprinkle pecorino romano over the top and place back in the oven uncovered for another 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.