Ingredients:

13-14 bell peppers, Moldovans use red and light green
1 head of cabbage (better to choose a softer head of cabbage instead of a hard and compact one) or 20 young grape leaves
3 large onions or 5 small to medium-sized onions, chopped.
2 carrots, grated.
2 chicken breasts, thinly sliced and chopped.
¼ cup tomato paste
¾ cups cracked wheat
1 ½ – 2 cups short grain white rice
½ tsp pepper
½ tsp salt
1 Tbs oil
2 bay leaves, broken into several pieces
4 cups water
2 Tbs tomato paste

Bring a pot of water to a boil, and add 20-25 washed cabbage (or grape) leaves. Boil for 2-3 minutes. Do not cook through but the leaves should be somewhat limp. Remove from water immediately and set aside in a separate bowl. De-seed bell peppers by cutting the top out. Keep in mind these peppers will be stuffed, so do not cut along the sides. Add to cabbage bowl.

Heat some oil in a pan and saute onions and carrots for about 3 minutes. Add chicken and saute for another 4 minutes. Add ¼ cup tomato paste and mix well. Saute a couple more minutes. Meanwhile rinse and drain cracked wheat and rice. Remove pan from heat and add wheat and rice. Mix well. Add salt and pepper.

Put bones, chicken fat, or thick branch part of uncooked cabbage leaves in the bottom of a steel pot. If you don’t have the bones or the chicken fat, put the thick branch parts of the uncooked cabbage leaves in the bottom with a little bit of oil. Add the bay leaves.

Stuff the peppers to the top with filling and place in pot. Tear cabbage (or grape) leaves into smaller pieces, about the size of your palm or slightly smaller. Tear around the thick branch part of the cabbage (Save these parts for later.) Put a spoonful of filling in the bottom third of the leaf and wrap up tight like a burrito, so that no filling will leak out. Place on top of peppers and in crevices. When all the filling has been used, cover completely with cabbage (or grape) leaves. Use the thick parts you have been setting aside for this. If you do not have enough leaves, use raw leaves.

In a separate bowl add about 4 cups water and 2 Tbs tomato paste. Mix together and pour over sarmale. Water should be at the same level as the cabbage. Cover with lid and bring to a boil. After boiling for 1-2 minutes, put on low to medium heat for 1 hour.

Serve with sour cream if you prefer, but I prefer without. Serves about 9-10 people.

Pofta Bună.

A little cabbage education:

It is better to use a soft cabbage for sarmale and a hard cabbage for soups. Pictured below is soft cabbage. When you press the outside of it, it makes an indention. A hard cabbage is more compact and doesn’t have any space between the leaves, like you see below.

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