Cooking the East European Way: Lazy Cabbage Rolls

This is a Ukrainian/Russian dish called "lenyvi golubtsi," which I am told translates as "lazy cabbage rolls," presumably because the meal is usually the sort of thing you'd put into a roll, but you couldn't be bothered. This may be the best-named food yet -- how many other cultures have recipes that insult your work ethic?

I have located a recipe that finely chops the ingredients, adds rice, gets squeezed into little balls, and then deep fried, but I was feeling especially lazy, so I went with the simplest recipe. This is a mix of shredded cabbage, diced carrots, tomato paste, onion, and ground beef (as I am a vegetarian, I used a vegetarian substitution). The whole of it is fried on a stovetop and left on a low heat for a while, and then just plopped onto a plate and seasoned with salt, pepper, and, this being an Eastern European dish, dill.

The results are pure comfort food, and, as a Minnesotan, a comfort food that was unexpectedly familiar. We have a rather famous local meal called hotdish, which is a savory casserole, and there are two types -- those made with a tomato base, and those made with cream of mushroom soup, which we call "Lutheran Béchamel." This tastes like the sort of thing a Minnesotan with tomato sauce might whip up, although, in Minnesota, you never know what they might throw in -- cocktail weenies, wild rice, chow mein noodles, even marshmallows, god help us. 

I decided to try an experiment and mix the leftovers with a traditional Minnesotan hotdish ingredient, egg noodles, which also seemed appropriately Jewish, because if I dumped some cinnamon on the resulting dish I could pretend it was a kugel that went terribly wrong somehow. 

And in answer to my own unstated question: Yes. Lazy cabbage rolls on top of egg noodles is a hotdish. In fact, there is an almost identical Minnesota recipe called Cabbage Hamburger Hotdish. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised by this, or by the fact that almost everything I have made so far tastes oddly familiar. Despite Minnesota's insistence that it is the unrecognized seventh Scandinavian country, we also boast a sizable Eastern European population, especially in the the Twin Cities, Duluth, and the Iron Range. 

I suppose it had never occurred to me that Eastern Europeans were secretly inserting their ingredients into Minnesota hot dish recipes. But now I know. The intention of this project was to explore the recipes of Eastern Europe, but I've come to the realization that I've already explored a lot of these recipes. They were just loaded into casserole dishes and served in church basements.