I like stuffed cabbage, but never make it, because I don't like all the fussy work of rolling things up in the cabbage leaves. And then I ran across a recipe for rice and cabbage casserole, which was essentially unstuffed stuffed cabbage, layered in a casserole.
And then, after a mild fall, cold weather arrived, and I was craving hot and hearty meals, so I was inspired to make my own version of the casserole with what I had on hand:
1/2 head cabbage (or more, to taste; I only had a half head in the fridge)
1 cup rice
2 cups water
1/4 lb ground beef
diced peppers (lots!) and onions
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 cups tomato sauce
Optional: 2 leaves of swiss chard, chopped into small bits
romano or parmesan cheese, grated
At lunch-time, chop the cabbage and toss it into a slow cooker with water, to cook on high until the cabbage is soft.
About an hour before dinner, make the rice with the 2 cups of water. (I'm strictly low-salt, but a beef bouillon cube could be added to the water for salt and a wee bit of flavoring.)
While the rice is cooking, saute the ground beef, peppers and onions. When they're almost done, toss in the garlic. Add the tomato sauce, and cook until the sauce is heated through. Then toss in the swiss chard and the rice and turn off the heat. You can skip the swiss chard; it's not really traditional for stuffed cabbage, but I tend not to get enough green vegetables (except peppers), and I had a bunch of swiss chard still growing in the garden, so I included it.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. To assemble the casserole, start by drizzling some olive oil in the bottom of a two-quart casserole. Spread half of the cabbage in the casserole, top with half of the tomato/beef/rice mixture. Repeat with a second layer of cabbage, and then the tomato/beef/rice mixture. If the tomato sauce is particularly thick, you may want to add a bit of water to the finished casserole, just enough to cover the bottom of the dish to keep everything moist.
Sprinkle cheese on top of the casserole and bake for 30 minutes (or a little longer, if any of the ingredients weren't already hot) to melt the cheese and make sure the casserole is heated all the way through.
This could be made vegetarian by skipping the beef and possibly adding mushrooms. The recipe that inspired me didn't have any meat in it. Or mushrooms, actually, but I think they'd make the casserole feel heartier than it would be without them.