Seafood Cabbage Rolls (Λαχανοντολμάδες-με-Θαλασσινά)

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WhenI first scanned over this recipe in a recent issue of Gastronomos, I was smitten with the concept of filling cabbage with seafood. In Greek cuisine, cabbage rolls are usually filled with mince and finished with a creamy Avgolemono (egg/lemon) sauce. This recipe is an obvious take or twist on the Greek classic: shrimp and baby calamari replace the mince and a seafood and vegetable stock take place of the Avgolemono sauce, making this the suprise fave of my Lenten dishes for 2010.

The recipe comes courtesy of Christoforos Peskias who originally hails from Cyprus but is now based in Athens. Chef Peskias is a true ambassador of Greek cuisine…he even travels to help promote Greek ingredients with his bold and innovative style of cooking. I think this dish is a fine example of his style.

The original recipe calls for 1 whole cabbage but instead I opted for 2 small cabbages, about the size of large grapefruit or pomelos. I opted for this size so that I could have smaller cabbage rolls to pair with the delicate seafood filling and cook quicker.

The one concern I had was the cooking time vs. the filling – seafood. Squid can be braised and become soft after 40 minutes but shrimp? Hmmm, rubber. The solution is to finely shop the seafood so that the rubbery texture of overcooked seafood could be avoided or…trick your palate. It worked!

The cabbage is tender like in any other cabbage roll I’ve made, the briny squid were tender and the chopped bits of shrimp are firmer but forgiven with the sweet bursts of flavour with each bite. Arborio rice binds the mixture and fresh parsley and dill remind that Spring has arrived.

Finish the dish off with a seafood & vegetable stock that’s reduced and thickened when added to an olive oil and flour roux, a looser sauce that’s reminiscent of a northern Greek makalo.

I had this dish last week, during Holy Week and it was both satisfying to make and filling. There’s a little more work involved but I still think the recipe is moderately easy. Boil and separate your cabbages leaves, prepare your stock and roll and bake your cabbage rolls. Stuck on ideas for fish (seafood) Fridays? Try these seafood cabbage rolls!

Seafood Cabbage Rolls (Λαχανοντολμάδες με Θαλασσινά)

(serves 6)

recipe adapted from Christoforos Peskias

For the cabbage

2 small cabbage

For the filling

1 pound small shrimp, preferably fresh, with shells and heads
350 gr. calamari, cleaned, separated into tentacles and tubes
1/4 cup olive oil
1 bunch of scallions, chopped
1 cup Arborio rice (Carolina)
1 large carrot, grated
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 cup of chopped fresh dill
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp. fine sea salt

1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

For the stock

the heads and shells from the shrimp
1/4 cup olive oil
4 carrots, medium, grated
2 medium onions, chopped
5 cloves garlic, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 cup dry white wine
2 whole ripe tomatoes, grated
5 sprigs parsley
1 bay leaf
1 Tbsp. of coarse salt

4-6 whole peppercorns

For the sauce

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1 heaping Tbsp. of flour

1 1/2 to 2 cups stock

juice of 1/2 lemon

1/4 cup chopped fresh dill

  1. For the broth, peel the shrimp and de-vein, remove the heads and shells and set aside. Place the cleaned shrimp in a bowl, cover with cling film and set aside for the stuffing. Place a large pot on your stove-top and add the olive oil, the shrimp shells and heads over high heat. Stir the shrimp heads & shells for a couple of minutes or until pink. Add the, carrots, onions, garlic an celery and sweat while stirring for 4-5 minutes and reduce to medium heat.  Add the wine, tomatoes, parsley, bay leaf and peppercorns and about 4 cups of water. Bring back to a boil and then reduce heat, add salt to taste and simmer for about 40 minutes. Take off the heat and strain and discard the solids. Set your stock aside.
  2. In the meantime, prepare the cabbage by removing the core: invert the cabbage and remove the core by cutting around the tough root/stem with a sharp knife (make a conical cut). You should now have a conical hole at the bottom of your cabbage. Take a medium-sized pot and fill 2/3 up with water. Bring to a boil and season well with salt. Gently drop your cabbage in the pot and cover. Every 2/3 minutes, gently poke the outer leaves with a fork and if the leaves come away, remove and place on a plate nearby. Keep on repeating this step until all of your leaves have come apart from the cabbage.
  3. For the filling, chop  the squid and shrimp into small pieces and set aside. In a medium saucepan, add the olive oil and scallions saute  3 to 4 minutes on medium heat until softened. Add rice and saute for 2-3 minutes stirring constantly and the rice kernels have been toasted. Add a ladle of stock and simmer while stirring until the all the liquid is absorbed. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. Now add the grated carrot, chopped shrimp and squid, parsley and dill. Add the salt, pepper and zest and juice of a lemon. Stir and taste and adjust accordingly.
  4. For the cabbage rolls, separate the leaves that are too large or too small to roll (we will use these as “protection” when cooking.  Place some of these leaves on the bottom of your oven-proof baking vessel. Take a leaf of cabbage and place 1 tsp. of your seafood/rice filling in the bottom part of the leaf. Fold the bottom in and then the flaps and now roll up the cabbage leaf. Place the cabbage roll (seam-side down) in your baking vessel. Repeat and stuff and roll all of your cabbage rolls. (be careful not to roll the cabbage to tightly as your rice will expand). Place the remaining unrolled cabbage leaves on top and pour all but 1 cup of the stock all over your cabbage rolls. You should have enough liquid to just cover your cabbage rolls (add some boiling water if needed).
  5. Pre-heat your oven to 350F and place your cabbage rolls in bake (covered) for 45-60 minutes or until the rice is tender. At 45 minutes, simply taste-test a cabbage roll.
  6. When your cabbage rolls are cooked, remove from the oven and carefully tip  the baking vessel and pour the stock into a cup. Now for the sauce, in a medium pot add the olive oil over medium heat and add the flour and stir for a minute. Now add the hot stock (plus any reserve stock) and bring to a boil. Simmer while stirring until it has thickened to your tastes. Add the lemon juice, chopped dill and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Pour over your cabbage rolls and serve.
  7. Pair with a Skouras Viognier Cuvee Larsinos.

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© 2007-2010 Peter Minakis

© 2010,
Peter Minakis

. All rights reserved.

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22 Comments for “Seafood Cabbage Rolls (Λαχανοντολμάδες-με-Θαλασσινά)”


this contains all the essential ingredients of a good greek dish, and it provides the bonus of a novel twist to an old favorite


You would think that because I live in the Caribbean I have an abundance of seafood but not so – it varies from one island to the other. This seafood stuffed cabbage is something that I would love to eat often!


For some strange reason, I get an Asian vibe from putting seafood in the cabbage. I guess I’m more familiar with the Eastern European version with ground meat or vegan ones like Bethany. This is really nice.


Next year’s Holly Week I’m coming to Toronto! These look and sound delicious. Is it a Cypriot style dish or Northern Greece?


You’re unstoppable, Mr Petah. Unstoppable!
I want to hire you as my private chef but i don’t have any money to pay you.
That really sucks because, damn.. you can cook!


I love this twist on the cabbage roll. I always think of cabbage rills as being Ukranian but as with perogies there are many variations from country to country. These are very artfully displayed as well Peter.


Stunning! Every time I stop by here I stare at what you’ve cooked and I say “That’s it! That’s the one! That’s what want!” How could I ever choose! You are an amazing cook!


I have also tried lettuce leaf dolmas with seafood in chef Karamolengos’ restaurant “Apla” and it must be one of the best thing I have ever eaten!


hi, peter! we haven’t been around in awhile so wanted to stop by and see what we’ve been missing. this totally caught my eye. never had cabbage rolls stuffed w/ seafood and i’m intrigued. it looks absolutely delicious. does the seafood get chewy after being cooked for so long or does it not really matter?