Tender red cabbage and golden sautéed onions make a savory bed for meatballs drizzled with tahini sauce in this Shabbat dinner dish that mixes up Jewish culinary traditions.
Cabbage has been cultivated since ancient times. Several of today’s most popular varieties (including red cabbage) were developed in medieval Germany. Hearty, plentiful, and inexpensive, cabbage has become a mainstay of Eastern European Jewish cuisine and a component of other Jewish cuisines.
I added Sephardic and Mizrachy touches to add flavor and depth to this Ashkenazi staple, as well as some tahini sauce to add an earthy creaminess. I like to use half lamb and half beef for the meatballs.
Red cabbage and onions with meatballs
For 4 to 5 people
- Tahini sauce (see below)
- 1 lb ground lamb or beef (or a combination)
- 1 C. fine salt
- ½ tsp. ground black pepper, divided
- ½ tsp. paprika, divided
- vs. ground cumin, divided
- vs. dried oregano
- vs. garlic powder
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 3 tbsp. tomato paste, divided
- ¼ cup oil, approximate, divided
- 2 cups thinly sliced onion halves
- 1 tbsp. finely chopped fresh garlic
- 1 small red cabbage, cut into shreds or ¼ inch slices (see Notes)
- About 3 cups of water or as needed
- ½ tsp. cut sugar
- vs. dried mint
- vs. ground sumac, or 1 Tbsp. finely grated lemon zest
- vs. crushed red pepper, or your choice
- 3 tbsp. chopped fresh dill, mint or parsley
Prepare the tahini sauce (see below) and set aside.
In a large bowl, combine the lamb, ¼ tsp. salt, c. pepper, ¼ tsp. paprika, c. cumin, oregano and garlic powder. Stir in the egg and 1 tbsp. tomato paste. Mix well. Form compact 1-inch balls. Put aside.
In a large 12-inch deep skillet, heat 2 Tbsp. oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions, ¼ tsp. salt and ¼ tsp. black pepper. Sauté until onions are tender and golden, about 12 to 15 minutes. Remove to a large bowl. To do not wipe out the pan.
Add 1 tbsp. oil, if necessary, in a frying pan. Fry meatballs over medium-high heat until golden brown and just cooked through (about 5 to 6 minutes per batch); the meatballs should be firm but elastic and not have a pink inside when cut. Remove the meatballs in a bowl with the onions.
Heat the pan by adding 1 tbsp. oil if needed. Sauté garlic, 1 to 2 minutes, until golden brown over medium-high heat. Add the cabbage and ¼ teaspoon of salt. Cook, stirring often, until the cabbage begins to wilt (about 12 to 15 minutes). Stir in ½ cup of water, 1 tbsp. tomato paste and c. cumin. Cover and steam the cabbage until very tender (about 15 to 20 minutes), stirring occasionally. Add water by ½ cup as needed.
Stir in ¼ tsp. salt, c. sugar, dried mint, sumac, red pepper, ¼ tsp. paprika, c. ground cumin and 1 tbsp. tomato paste and cup of water. Cook uncovered until the pan is dry. To taste. Add more salt and / or pepper as desired, and the ¼ tsp. sugar (or to taste) if the cabbage is bitter. Stir in ½ cup of water. Once the water is simmering, add the onions and the meatballs. Mix well. Cover and cook, 5 to 6 minutes, until the meatballs are heated through and the liquid has thickened. Serve immediately drizzled with tahini sauce and garnished with dill.
Tahini sauce: In a medium bowl, combine 1 Tbsp. minced garlic, ¼ tsp. salt, 1 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. lemon juice and cup of cold water. Stir in ½ cup of the tahini paste. The mixture will sear, but keep stirring, adding a teaspoon of cold water until the sauce is the consistency of a smooth, loose frosting. To taste. Add salt, tahini and / or lemon juice as needed.
Remarks: A small red cabbage weighs 1 to 1 ½ lbs. Or use half of a medium sized cabbage (2 to 2½ lbs). Prepare up to 3 days in advance (without sauce or dill). Reheat, covered, in a 350 degree oven.