Rely on Classic Fall and Winter Side Dishes for Cabbage
Steaming rolls of stuffed cabbage may be one of the first things you want to make when the weather turns cool in the fall or winter. Think of side dishes that you typically serve with other fall or winter entrees, or choose sides that balance the heartiness of the cabbage or add something extra to it. Some pairings are traditional, but don't be limited by those – pick whichever dishes sound good to you.
Rice or Potatoes
Any potato or rice variations pair well with stuffed cabbage, providing creamy starchiness to balance the vegetable flavors of the cabbage. Both simple and complicated potato and rice side dishes work. Serve plain mashed potatoes or brown rice seasoned with salt, pepper and butter. To take a more complex approach, season potatoes with prepared horseradish, roasted garlic and chopped parsley, and make the rice with chicken stock, chopped scallions and toasted walnuts. Crispy potato latkes or rice pilaf with mushrooms also fill out a stuffed cabbage meal.
If you make vegetarian stuffed cabbage rolls, pair them with a side dish that provides a high dose of protein. A white bean or three-bean salad will do the trick. Dress the salads with a bold vinaigrette, chopped red onions, fresh parsley and a few handfuls of roasted peanuts. Steamed edamame beans, with a dipping sauce made with fresh herbs, lemon zest and chicken broth, also are high in protein. For an unusual side dish, serve a small piece of pork belly, a few slabs of smoky bacon or a few pieces of grilled shrimp.
Salads for Contrast
Cool salads offer a nice contrast with hot and heavy stuffed cabbage rolls. Emphasize a salad's brightness with slices of oranges, chunks of grapefruit or handfuls of pomegranate seeds. Or use raw apples, crunchy walnuts and crisp celery slices in a classic Waldorf salad to provide textural contrasts with the silky cabbage leaves. Dress any green salad with a bold vinaigrette with balsamic vinegar to counter the mild flavors of the cabbage.
Stuffed cabbage is a staple in a number of Eastern European countries, such as Poland and Romania, so look to the countries in that region for traditional cabbage side dishes. Tangy sauerkraut, doughy pierogi dumplings filled with a variety of ingredients, or egg noodles seasoned with caraway seeds and sour cream are just a few ideas. In Romania, a savory pudding made with a polenta-like grain and flavored with telemea cheese – similar to feta – provides a strong, salty contrast to the cabbage.