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apple cabbage dolma

Ingredients

for the filling:

  • 28-ounce can diced tomato (800 gram can) (save the juice for the next part)
  • 1 cup green onions, chopped (55 grams)
  • 1 cup parsley leaves, chopped (27 grams)
  • 1/2 cup dill fronds, chopped (27 grams)
  • 3/4 cup cilantro leaves, chopped (27 grams)
  • 1 medium jalapeño, seeded and minced (27 grams minced)
  • 3 cloves garlic crushed through a press (15 grams)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste (22 grams)
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter (28 grams)
  • Shy 1/2 cup medium grain rice (100 grams) (e.g., Calrose)
  • 11 ounces ground or hand-minced beef (312 grams)
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt (or to taste)

to stuff and cook the apples and cabbage:

  • 1 medium potato, sliced into 1/8 to 1/4-inch-thick rounds (enough to cover the bottom of the pot)
  • The reserved tomato juice (from above), about 2 cups
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice (59 grams)
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter (42 grams)
  • Salt to taste
  • 5 large granny smith apples (1025 grams)
  • 1 small cabbage (700 to 800 grams)
  • (optional: a can of vegetable juice or tomato juice, just in case)

Instructions

  1. Make the filling: Strain the can of diced tomatoes, reserving the juice (do not throw away the juice!). Press the diced tomatoes/tomato pulp with the back of a spoon to make sure they are extremely well-strained. There should be about 2 cups of reserved liquid, and about 1 cup (280 grams) of tomato pulp.
  2. Combine the tomato pulp, green onion, parsley, dill, cilantro, jalapeño, garlic, tomato paste, melted butter, rice, beef, pepper, and salt. Use your hands to mix everything together until it’s completely combined.
  3. Stuff and cook the dolma: Lightly oil the bottom of an approximately 4-quart* dutch oven or stockpot. Arrange the potato slices on the bottom so the apples won’t touch the bottom directly.
  4. Combine the reserved tomato juice, lemon juice, melted butter, salt to taste, and set aside.
  5. Bring a stockpot of salted water to a boil.
  6. While you’re waiting on the water, hollow out the apples:** Cut about 1/2 inch off the top of the apple (reserve the top), then use a 1/2-teaspoon or melon baller to carve out the base, leaving no thicker than 1/4-inch sides (it should be quite hollow).
  7. Once the water is boiling, cut the cabbage in half from root to end. Use a paring knife to carefully remove the core (the part that holds everything together). Place the cabbage in the water, reduce to a simmer, and let it cook for about 10 to 15 minutes, just until the leaves are soft enough to bend very easily without snapping. As the large leaves soften and fall away, remove them from the water and let them cool on a plate, and eventually remove the whole thing from the water once it’s soft enough.
  8. Stuff the apples first (don’t tamp the stuffing down super tightly, but make sure they’re pretty full).
  9. Finish prepping the cabbage by shaving down the ribs. Place a cabbage leaf flat on a cutting board, so that the bumpy part of the rib is showing. Carefully hold a sharp knife flat against the cabbage leaf, and cut across (but away from your hand!) to remove the bumpy part of the rib.
  10. Stuff the cabbage leaves sort of like spring rolls or burritos. If you’re having trouble getting them to stay closed, just use less filling per leaf.
  11. Build the pot: First figure out where the apples are going to go. Then use your tetris skills to nest cabbage leaves under the base of the apples, so it’s a super snug fit. Fit cabbage leaves around the apples wherever you can, leaving space for their caps. There should be very few gaps.
  12. Pour the liquid evenly over the dolma, allowing a little bit to pour into the open apples (you may not need to use all of the liquid). Top the apples with their caps, and pour on more of the liquid. It’s ok if the tops are slightly exposed, but the liquid should reach almost to the top of the veggies (if not slightly over their tops). Make sure there’s at least 1 inch of room at the top so it doesn’t bubble over. If you don’t have quite enough liquid, top it off with a little bit of veggie juice (you’ll know you won tetris if you don’t need more liquid).
  13. Bring to a low boil over medium-high heat, then place a heavy heat-proof plate face-down over the dolma, and use a wooden spoon to press it down a bit. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 30 more minutes. Control the heat while it cooks to make sure it is at a simmer (you’ll gradually lower the heat as it heats through). Once it’s done, keep it covered and let it rest for 30 minutes off the heat.
  14. Safely flip the dolma over onto a sheet pan or serving tray (visit this post for dolma flipping tips). For a showstopper: lift the upside-down pot to reveal the dolma, and serve.

Notes

* It’s important to find the right pot to make your dolma. I used a 3 1/2 quart Le Creuset dutch oven when testing and photographing this recipe, but it was a very tight fit, and it was close to bubbling over toward the end of cooking. So I recommend using a 4 quart pot if you don’t have advanced dolma tetris skills. When looking for the right pot, it’s important to find one that fits all 5 apples in 1 layer. They should be touching or almost touching, and not too spread apart, and there should be some space between the tops of the apples and the top of the pot (to make sure it doesn’t bubble over). Read the notes above the recipe for more details on choosing the right one.** Feel free to reserve (and/or freeze) the insides to make applesauce, apple bread, or apple cake.