Eggplant Stuffed Cabbage with Parsley-Cilantro Walnut Pesto


This vegetarian version of traditional “pigs-in-a-blanket” stuffed cabbage is a knockout when paired with the fresh flavors of parsley and cilantro.

The challenge? To make a vegetarian stuffed cabbage that’s absolutely delicious. Mission accomplished with the help of Chef Andrea Dante from Mad Gourmet in Guilford CT who inspired me to turn her vegetarian eggplant “meatless” meatball mix into the filling for this dish.

The pesto is the taste kicker which adds a punch of color cabbage dishes usually lack.  Make it vegan by omitting the egg, rolling the cabbage leaves a bit tighter to hold the filling. Enjoy!

Eggplant Stuffed Cabbage
2 eggplants, peeled
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 shallot, minced
1 Tablespoon tomato paste
1 egg, beaten
Pinch red pepper flakes
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 cups cooked brown rice
1 cup gluten-free or panko breadcrumbs
2 Tablespoons cornstarch or arrowroot
1 head green cabbage

Peel and slice eggplant into 1/4 inch rounds. Brush with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and grill 2-3 minutes on each side, until soft but not mushy, being careful not to over-char. Eggplant can be grilled in a grill pan instead.  In a food processor, pulse eggplant with garlic, tomato paste, shallot and egg. Put mixture in a mixing bowl and add cornstarch, rice and bread crumbs. Let rest for 20 minutes to allow the moisture to be soaked up.

Fill enough water in a stock pot to cover the whole cabbage and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, peel off outer cabbage leaves and core the cabbage to remove the middle stem. Immerse cabbage in boiling water for 20-30 minutes, depending on the size of the cabbage, or until leaves are tender but firm throughout.

Separate cabbage leaves and unfold flat. Place enough eggplant mixture to roll up in cabbage leaves being mindful not to overstuff. Continue rolling up eggplant mixture in each cabbage leaf. Place stuffed cabbage in pyrex dish with 1/4 to 1/2 inch of vegetable broth and cover. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until filling is hot.

Parsley-Cilantro Walnut Pesto
1 cup walnuts
2 cups parsley
1/2 cup cilantro
3 gloves garlic
1/2 to 1 teaspoon sea salt
3/4 cups extra virgin olive oil, plus more if needed

Remove any thick stems from parsley and cilantro.  Place all ingredients except oil in a food processor pulsing until parsley and cilantro are blended but not finely chopped. With the food processor on, drizzle olive oil in a steady stream until desired consistency (I prefer this pesto to be coarsely pureed). Dollop parsley pesto on top of stuffed cabbage and serve.