Main dishesRecipes

Middle Eastern Makeover—Quinoa stuffed cabbage leaves (ma7shi)



Middle Eastern Makeover—Quinoa stuffed cabbage leaves (ma7shi)

Traditional ma7shi uses white rice for the stuffing. And while that is delicious, it is not optimally healthy since white rice is stripped of all its nutritional value and all you’re left with is a starchy grain that turns into sugar in your body. Quinoa on the other hand, is a nutrient powerhouse. Considered a pseudo-grain, quinoa is actually a complete protein that is gluten-free and contains all amino acids as well as B-vitamins, magnesium, phosphorous and calcium. And it works really well as a rice replacement. You can use the stuffing recipe for any ma7shi not just cabbage.

  • 1 large cabbage

For the stuffing:

  • 2 cups quinoa, soaked for at least  2 hours, rinsed and drained
  • 2 TBS olive oil
  • 6-7 large tomatoes (processed into a thick sauce)
  • 2  medium white onions
  • 1 bunch coriander, finely chopped
  • 1 bunch parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 bunch fresh dill, finely chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves crushed
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Cinnamon, dash
  • Ginger, dash
  • Mixed allspice, dash
  • 2-21/2 cups broth

Fill a large pot halfway with water and bring water to a boil. Peel the cabbage leaves and drop in the water in batches. Depending on the size of the leaves, you might have to do this one leaf at a time. After about  2 minutes the leaves should be soft and you can pull them out.  Set aside in a colander to drain. Add in another batch and repeat until the entire cabbage is cooked.

At the same time, add the olive oil to a medium saucepan on medium heat with the onions and sauté for a few minutes. Add the tomato sauce and cook down until there isn’t any more liquid, just a thick tomato sauce. Add the garlic, coriander, parsley, dill and spices. Mix well and cook together for 5-7 minutes. Add the quinoa and mix well. Keep cooking until the quinoa is soft. Taste and adjust the seasonings.

Place one of the cooked cabbage leaves at the bottom of a clean medium sized pot.

Start rolling the cabbage leaves. If the leaves are too large, cut each one in half or even in fourths. Take 1 TBS of the filling and place it in the top quarter of the leaf. Begin by wrapping the sides of the cabbage around the stuffing, first the right side, followed by the left side, so it resembles a wrap. Next roll the cabbage. Place the rolled cabbage at the bottom of the pan. Repeat and place all the rolled cabbage in neat circular rows one on top of the other in the pot. Don’t overfill the pot. You want to stop at 2/3 full. Cover the rolls with another full cabbage leaf. Add 2-21/2 cups of homemade vegetable/chicken/beef broth and place a small plate on top of the cabbage to hold it down while it cooks.

Cook on medium low heat for 1 hour or until broth is drained and veggies are all cooked through.



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Dana Dinnawi

Dana Dinnawi is an Integrative Nutrition health coach specializing in empowering women to improve their health and family life. She received her training from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, where she studied more than one hundred dietary theories and a variety of practical lifestyle coaching methods. She can be reached through her website and Facebook page.

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