Napa Cabbage Rolls with Peanut Sauce

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If anyone has had the chance to get a Napa cabbage in their CSA box or to see it at one of Norman’s roadside stands, you’d know that right now it is impressive. They are the biggest and healthiest heads of Napa cabbage I have ever seen, it really looks like two somehow morphed in one.
My original plan was to take this cabbage and shred it all up into coleslaw, but that seemed all too simple of a recipe for this awesomely enormous Napa. While cleaning off the leaves, I noticed how durable they are. I instantly realized that I could make one of my all-time favorite dishes with them. Thai lettuce wraps, you know the ones with a crisp green wrap and a delicious peanut sauce, make my appetite start with by even just the mere mention of them. My goal was to somehow convert that dish into these Napa roll-ups.
To my pleasant surprise, the leaves of the cabbage provided a perfect wrap for the juicy and savory filling that’s inside. Because this leaf has a very thick and crunchy rib to it, you are able to tuck the filling in tightly without cracking the surface of the roll. If a night comes when you are looking for a healthy, low-carb appetizer or light dinner to whip up I would consider these if I were you. Paired with a zesty peanut sauce consisting of just a few basic ingredients you probably already have on hand, this is dish makes you feel like maybe you can keep cooking for yourself even after restaurants are back open.

Ingredients:

  1. 1 lb ground meat (or vegan crumbles) (I used pork)
  2. 1 head of napa cabbage (leaves separated)
  3. 1 cup brown rice (cooked)
  4. 1 cup yellow onion (finely chopped)
  5. 1/2 cup of garlic (about 4 cloves, finely chopped)
  6. 3 teaspoons of ginger (grated)
  7. 2 carrots (peeled and diced)
  8. 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  9. 4 tablespoons coconut aminos (or soy sauce)
  10. 3 teaspoons rice vinegar
  11. 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
  12. 1/4 cup of water
  13. chili garlic sauce/paste (for brushing on before baking)
  14. basil (for garnish)

Ingredients for peanut sauce:

  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 3 teaspoons lime juice
  • 1/4 cup water (or more if needed to thin the sauce)
  • 1 tablespoon chili sauce/paste
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Carefully remove all the leaves from a head of napa cabbage and flatten them gently with a rolling pin to soften the rib of the leaf. Set the cabbage leaves aside for step 3.
  2. Whisk together all your ingredients for the peanut sauce in a small mixing bowl or cup, and set in the fridge until ready to use.
  3. In a large bowl, combine your meat and rice with the rest of your ingredients (except for chili sauce, basil, and water). Make sure everything is fully incorporated and worked together to form a mixture.
  4. Spoon about a heaping 1/3 of a cup of filling into each leaf of cabbage. Starting at the base end, gently roll the cabbage over the filling until tightly closed. In a medium-sized baking dish, place the cabbage rolls side by side. They’ll hold each other up as they cook.
  5. Brush on a layer of chili garlic sauce or paste on the top of your rolls. Pour 1/4 cup of water over the cabbage rolls, cover the baking pan with tin foil, and cook for about 35-40 minutes. A tip to avoid cabbage sticking to the tin foil: spray the bottom side with cooking oil. Serve with peanut sauce

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