Layered cabbage with mushrooms and rice (varză à la Cluj)




This mouth-watering dish used to be a childhood favorite. It is named after my favorite romanian city, Cluj-Napoca (if you have a chance, you must visit it!), and although it traditionally requires minced meat and is served with sour cream, I found them easily replaced by mushrooms and cashew and tofu cream. I used a food processor to finely chop the mushrooms, then I sautéed them with onions and red pepper and the result was very appreciated by the entire family. Serve it with your favorite bread and a dollop (or more!) of tofu cream.


Ingredients (serves 6-8)
- 1 medium size green cabbage, shredded 
- 2 onions, minced
- 1 red pepper, diced
- 600g mushrooms, minced
- 1 cup long grain rice, picked and washed
- 500ml strained tomatoes (or a thick tomato sauce)
- 6-8 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
- a handful fresh dill, finely chopped (1 Tablespoon dry dill)
- a few sprigs savory or thyme, chopped
- sea salt and pepper, to taste

Heat 3 Tablespoons olive oil in a heavy bottom pan, add the cabbage, season with sea salt and pepper and sauté, stirring often, until softened (about 10-15 minutes, depending on the cabbage). Add the savory and dill, toss to combine and reserve.
In a separate pan, heat 3 Tablespoons olive oil, add the onions, season with salt and pepper and sauté until translucent. Add the pepper and cook for a couple of minutes, then add the mushrooms, season with salt and pepper and cook until softened. You don't want them to be completely cooked as they will continue to soften in the oven. 
Cover the rice with plenty of water and bring to the boil. Add a pinch of sea salt, lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes then drain and reserve.
Prepare the bottom of an ovenproof dish by oiling it and covering it with a thin layer of strained tomatoes. Then create the layers as follows: start with half of the sautéed cabbage followed by the rice, a few tablespoons of strained tomatoes, the mushrooms, remaining cabbage and finish with a thin layer of strained tomatoes. Bake at 375F for about 25 minutes, or until a crust starts to form at the edges.  Serve with tofu and cashew cream and your favorite bread. Enjoy!



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