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Holubtsi, Ukrainian Stuffed Cabbage

How can anyone resist “little pigeons”, the endearing name for stuffed cabbage rolls in Ukraine, Poland, and Russia? Variations of this traditional, comfort food abound throughout the region. Most are meat-and-rice- filled and stewed, though some are fried. Some are petite, others sizable. Most use fresh cabbage, others pickled. You’ll even find holubtsi made with beet and grape leaves. In contrast to meat and rice rolls, my plant-based variation is very climate protective. Low in fat but high in fiber and flavor, these holubtsi are stuffed with toasted buckwheat groats, loads of aromatics, mushrooms, and herbs, then baked in a chunky fragrant rosé sauce.

Tender and flavorful, these little pigeons will feed a crowd. Serve as starter or entrée, topped with plenty of vegan “smetana” (sour cream) from strained homemade soy yogurt, and a good sprinkling of chopped dill and parsley. Making holubtsi is a lengthy affair, like lasagna, so I like to break up its elements and make each ahead of time over several days.

Prep time 45 for the sauce + 30 minutes to blanch the cabbage + 45 minutes for the filling + 30 minutes to roll

Cook time 60 to 90 minutes

Makes about 20 cabbage rolls

1 cup raw buckwheat, lightly pan toasted

1 ½ cups unsalted vegetable broth, heated

2 tablespoons ground dehydrated soup vegetables

2 medium carrots, cut in a small dice

1 large yellow onion, cut in a small dice

2 teaspoons dried thyme leaves

3 cloves garlic, minced

10 ounces white button or mixed varieties of mushrooms, cut in a small dice

1 tablespoon porcini powder, or to taste

1 fistful of fresh dill, roughly chopped

1 fistful of fresh parsley, roughly chopped

4 to 5 scallions, white and green sections, sliced

Up to ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Up to 4 teaspoons Barley miso paste, or to taste

4 cups grape or cherry tomatoes, cut in half, roasted

1 red onion, cut in a medium dice

2 tablespoons dry vermouth or unsalted vegetable broth to deglaze pan

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 26-ounce package Pomi or other strained tomatoes

1 tablespoon dried oregano, or to taste

1 cup unsweetened soy milk

1 cup fresh basil leaves