Sounds like something that Robin would say to Batman, like “Holy holishkes, Batman! It’s the Joker!”
Holishkes, or stuffed cabbage leaves (galuptzi in Polish), are often eaten on the Jewish harvest festival of Sukkot or Simchat Torah (literally “Celebration of the Torah). On Sukkot, Jews build small huts reminiscent of the temporary dwellings they used during their 40 years wandering the desert. Traditional foods for the holiday include fruit, nuts, vegetables, and other seasonal dishes.
One Jewish tradition also holds that two stuffed cabbages side by side resemble a Torah scroll, making them even more special for today since tonight marks the start of Simchat Torah. Jews around the world will complete the final passages of the Torah and start all over again at the beginning. We also dance with the Torah and one another. In fact, some old-timers believe that one’s dance partner on Simchat Torah is critical, as you may meet your future spouse! Anyway, I digress.
Cabbage, the primary ingredient in holishkes, is one of the world’s oldest vegetables, having been consumed and cultivated for thousands of years across multiple continents. The earliest cabbages were loose bunches of leaves, similar to kale or romaine lettuce, and eventually parented over 500 varieties. Among these cabbage assortments are broccoli and cauliflower. The smooth, light green cabbage we see at the grocery store today originated in Germany during the mid-12th century.
Ashkenazi Jews survived on cabbage as their primary vegetable until the arrival of potatoes in the early 18th century. Stuffing the leaves with a ground-meat mixture was an easy way to stretch a small piece of meat, which was quite expensive back then. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe and the Middle East brought their families’ stuffed cabbage recipes with them to America. Sometimes they altered their family recipes by adding tomato paste or sweet-and-sour sauce, products easily available in the new country.
For further reading:
Marks, Gil. Olive Trees and Honey: A Treasury of Vegetarian Recipes from Jewish Communities Around the World. New Jersey: Wiley Publishing, Inc, 2005.
Since stuffed cabbage recipes have been cooked by Jews and non-Jews across the globe, I looked to many places for inspiration, combining elements of various recipes. This recipe is very forgiving if you want to omit an ingredient or substitute something new. Just be sure to keep the interplay of sweet and savory.
1 head green cabbage
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion
1 cup uncooked brown rice
2 teaspoons kosher salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 15 ounce can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
½ cup raisins
½ cup chopped parsley
½ cup chopped mint (spearmint works well)
1 teaspoon honey
3 additional tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves minced garlic
1 8 ounce can tomato sauce
2 cups water
1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1) Peel the cabbage: Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Place whole head of cabbage into pot and cook for 10 minutes. Remove from water and allow to cool slightly.
Very carefully begin to pull the outermost leaves from the cabbage, repeating process until you get to the heart. No worries if you tear a few of them—you can use them to line the bottom of baking pan and on top of rolls.
2) Prepare the filling: Heat oil in pot over medium hot. Add chopped onion and cook for 5 minutes of until translucent. Add brown rice and stir until coated in oil. Add water, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil and then cover and reduce to simmer. Will likely take 30-45 minutes. Once rice is cooked, remove from heat and add raisins, parsley, and mint. Set aside to cool.
3) Make the sauce: Heat olive oil in yet another pot. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add tomato sauce, water, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Set aside.
4) Stuff the cabbage: Add 2-3 tablespoons of filling into the center of each leave. Fold the left side of leaf over stuffing, then the two adjacent sides, and the final side. Place roll seam-side down into 9×13 Pyrex baking dish. Cover stuffed cabbage rolls with extra cabbage leaves.
5) Pour sauce over rolls, and cover with extra cabbage leaves to lock flavors.
6) Loosely cover with aluminum foil and bake at 350 degrees for 45-60 minutes, until smell permeates room and sauce thickens.
7) Enjoy straight from the oven or as a cold snack. They also freeze beautifully!