With its unusual combination of ingredients, this is an excellent vegetarian main course, buffet dish or first course.
Packages of shelled roasted chestnuts are available at Mediterranean, Iranian and some Asian markets. Medium-grain rice is available in the Latino section at H Mart.
Serve cold, with lemon wedges.
Make Ahead: For best flavor, prepare these a day in advance and refrigerate.
Servings: 8 - 10
- 1 1/2 cups raw medium-grain white rice
- Sea salt
- 1 1/4 cups extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 large onion (2 1/2 pounds total), finely chopped
- 5 tablespoons pine nuts
- 3 tablespoons dried currants
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 10 1/2 cups warm water
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1 tablespoon dried (ground) mint
- Leaves from 1/2 bunch flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
- Fronds from 1/2 bunch dill, finely chopped (about 2 tablespoons)
- 2 green cabbages of equal size (2 1/2 pounds total)
- About 10 1/2 ounces shelled, roasted chestnuts (see headnote)
Soak the rice in warm salted water for 20 minutes. Drain.
Heat 1 cup of the oil in a Dutch oven or large saute pan with a lid over medium heat. When it is hot, add the onions and pine nuts; cook for 12 to 15 minutes, stirring often. Add the drained rice, mix well and cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Season with salt to taste, then add the currants, sugar and 1 cup of the warm water. Mix well; cover and cook for 4 to 6 minutes, until all of the liquid has been absorbed. Uncover and add the cinnamon, allspice and mint. Mix well, then add the parsley and dill; mix well and remove from the heat to cool.
Use a sharp knife to core the cabbages. Discard any discolored or wilted outer leaves.
Lay out several layers of paper towels or a clean dish towel on the counter.
Combine 8 cups of the warm water and 1/2 tablespoon of salt in a pot large enough to hold the cabbages (or cook them one at a time) over high heat, stirring to dissolve the salt. Add the cabbages cored sides up; cover and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or until they are pliable. Uncover and use a fork to remove the outer leaves, transferring them to the towel(s). Cover and repeat, transferring leaves until you reach the center of the cabbage.
Choose leaves that are not torn or curled, and place them on a clean work surface. Reserve any torn or curled leaves for later use.
Place a tablespoon of the cooled rice mixture and 1 chestnut half on each piece of cabbage leaf. Fold the sides over to cover the filling, then roll the leaf from bottom to top. Repeat with the remaining filling, chestnuts and leaves. (Depending on the number of useable leaves, you may have leftover filling. Cover and refrigerate for another use.)
Use some (not all) of the torn or curled leaves to line the bottom of a heavy saucepan that is large enough to hold half of the cabbage rolls in a single layer.
Arrange the cabbage rolls in the lined saucepan, loose ends facing down, to create 1 layer. Repeat with the remaining cabbage rolls to create a second layer. Add the remaining 1 1/2 cups warm water and the remaining 1/4 cup of oil. Add salt as needed.
Use the remaining torn or curled cabbage leaves to cover the filled ones. Invert a heatproof plate that fits just inside the pot to press down on the cabbage. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to medium-low; cover and cook for 60 to 70 minutes. Remove from the heat.
Cool for 4 to 5 hours, then transfer to a container and refrigerate. To serve, arrange on a platter and serve cold.
Adapted from "The Turkish Cookbook," by Nur Ilkin and Sheilah Kaufman (Interlink, 2010).
Tested by Nicole Schofer.
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