"Meaty" Vegetarian Galumpkis: A Twist On a Famous Polish Comfort Dish

Two or three major snowstorms ago (that's about one week and 2 feet of snow ago), I decided to take a crack at making galumpkis. To be honest, I never really liked galumpkis, because I kinda always hated ground meat. Basically, galumpkis are cabbage stuffed with ground meat and rice, topped with a sweet and sour tomato sauce. So this was a meal I opted out of when I was growing up.

Up in New England, where I come from, there is a lot of Polish influence in cuisine. Although I'm one quarter Russian, a lot of the typical food passed down is very similar or the same as Polish versions. Maybe there are other versions of this particular dish, also, but I never met one that I liked. I guess I didn't inherit a taste for galumpkis.

But, I did get the cooking gene. My dad used to say I must have it, because I could make a meal out of nothing, just like his grandmother. Considering galumpkis and cooking skills in my blood, I should be able to take what I do keep in the house and make a version of galumpkis I actually want to eat. The other requirement was that they be vegetarian for my husband, but I also couldn't tell you the last time I ate red meat, myself.

I wanted to keep the consistency and flavor close to the traditional. Although I hate ground meat, I actually really like the fake stuff, especially Quorn brand made from mushroom protein. However, on it's own it's a bit boring, so I ground up some vegetables and mushrooms to give it more depth, which worked well. Grinding them small helped them blend into the veggie grounds and mingle the flavors. I have attempted in the past to stuff cabbage with healthy stuff like wild or brown rice, and it's just too firm and nutty. So I stuck with basic instant white rice as the filler.

It took a little foresight, and a bit of prep-work to get this dinner to the table. These things I usually lack. I haven't had that sort of time since, not even time to write this post (snowstorms to shovel, sick kid, no sleep). Many times I buy a specific item with a recipe in mind, like cabbage or eggplant or mushrooms, only to lack the time or motivation to make it, and the item goes rotten. My cabbage survived a good week or two before I got to it, luckily it's hardy, but I did it!

The best part of putting in the time, is that we were rewarded with leftovers for days. And these galumpkis reheat so incredibly well. There are no eggs, no pasta, nothing to go bad or watery or mushy. Day after day, the leftovers were as impressively delicious as the first meal. The stuffing and sauce could also be frozen individually, to make into rolls later.

Vegetarian Galumpkis
1-1/2 hrs
6-8 servings / approx. 16 rolls

2 large heads green cabbage

1 T olive oil
1 small onion
1 medium carrot
1 medium celery stalk
4 oz can of mushrooms, drained
2 T tomato paste
1 T dry red wine (or water)
6 oz vegetarian ground “meat” (Quorn or Morningstar Farms)
1 tsp garlic powder
1 T dried parsley
¼ tsp red pepper flakes
salt & pepper

1-1/2 C cooked rice (I used 3/4 C dry instant white rice w/ ¾ C water)

1 T olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
35 oz can crushed tomatoes
1 T + 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
2 tsp sugar
salt & pepper

1. Heat oven to 350F.

2. Remove the bottom core from the cabbage with a paring knife, and carefully peel leaves off. Set the very large outer leaves aside to use later. In a pot of boiling water, submerge the remaining cabbage leaves and boil 5 minutes. You may need to work in batches a few at a time. Remove gently with tongs to a baking sheet or tray to cool.

3. Make the sauce. Heat olive oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and cook 2-3 minutes to soften. Add tomatoes, vinegar and sugar. Heat through and season with salt and pepper to taste.

4. Cook the rice according to package directions and set aside.

5. Prepare the stuffing. Place onions, carrot, celery and mushrooms in the small bowl of a food processor or chopper. Pulse until finely minced but not a paste. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat and cook vegetables about 5 minutes to soften. Stir in tomato paste and wine or water. Add the grounds and cook, stirring, about 8 minutes until thawed and heated through. Season with garlic powder, parsley, red pepper, salt and black pepper. Add 1 C of the tomato sauce and mix in the rice.

6. Line a large rectangular baking dish with the outer unused cabbage leaves. Spoon a little sauce over the leaves.

7. Prepare cooked cabbage leaves by cutting the center vein from leaves. Lay each flat, and hold the stem opening closed overlapped a little, and spoon on a fat tablespoon of stuffing.  Roll up starting with the stem edge of leaf, tucking the sides in as you go, like a burrito. Place seam side down in baking dish 1-2” apart. Spoon the tomato sauce over the rolls. Any extra sauce can be kept to top leftovers later.

8. Bake at 350F for 45 minutes. Serve hot.


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