Stuffed Collard Green Leaves with Bulgur (Bulgurlu Kara Lahana Sarması)

Since vegetables in the cabbage family are in season now, I am making an effort to post my recipes that involves cabbage or its cousins before the season is over. I am a believer of eating vegetables that are in season, although I do occasionally make exceptions.

Stuffed cabbage was another dish that I strongly disliked when I was a kid, especially, the kind with bulgur stuffing. Obviously, similar to many children, I did not understand good food. Instead of cabbage, I used collard greens in this recipe which are mostly popular in the Black Sea region of Turkey. You may also use cabbage with this stuffing. Since I also had a cabbage on hand, I did roll a few of the sarmas using cabbage as you can see in the picture.

For Stuffing:

2 cups bulgur (medium grain)
1 tbsp fresh mint (chopped)
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp red pepper paste
4 cloves of garlic
Juice of 1 lemon
½ tsp ground black pepper
½ tsp cumin
½ cup olive oil
2 tsp salt

1 ½ cup hot water (for soaking bulgur)

For Rolling and Cooking Sarmas:

2 bunches collard greens
2 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves (sliced)
1 tsp salt
2 cups water

For Garnishing:

1 roasted red bell pepper
3-4 sprigs parsley
½ lemon (sliced)

Soak the bulgur in a large bowl with hot water. Cover with plastic wrap and let it sit for 15-20 minutes until the bulgur is soft. If it is not completely soft, that is fine as the bulgur will be cooking later.

Add all the stuffing ingredients to the bulgur. Mix well with your hands so that all the ingredients are married together.

Cut the stems of the collard greens and discard.

If the collard leaves are too large (most likely they will be), cut them in half or quarters. Half-fill water in a large pot and boil. Put the collard green leaves in the boiling water for 1 minute and remove. Shock the leaves under cold water to stop the cooking process. Gently squeeze the leaves to remove excess water. Let them drain completely.

On a cutting board or a plate, place a leaf the smooth side down.

The wider part of the leaf should be toward you. Place a spoonful of bulgur stuffing inside the leaf.

(I had a picture that displayed the stuffing inside the the leaf, but I must have inadvertently deleted it when I was editing the pictures. After wasting more than an hour trying to retrieve it, I still couldn't find it, so I gave up. You will just have to use your imagination!)

Close the sides and start rolling. This will hinder any of the stuffing to escape the leaf while cooking.

Follow this process for each leaf and arrange neatly in a pot.

When you are finished arranging the sarmas, sprinkle the salt on top. Arrange the sliced garlic on top of the sarmas. Drizzle the olive oil and add the water. Place a plate or two on top of the sarmas so that they do not float around during cooking.

Cook for 10 minutes covered on medium heat. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 15 more minutes. Be cautious not to cook the sarmas too long since the collard greens will be too soft and torn. Garnish with roasted red bell peppers, parsley and lemon slices. Enjoy cold or warm.

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