I really I hope I don’t lose you here and I promise that more simple and quick recipes are to come– just hang in there and hear me out. Stuffed grape leaves are SO good and they are always better when freshly made. Plus, the great thing about making your own is that you decide what to stuff them with. There are a few solid rules about making grape leaves but there is also a lot of room to play. In addition to the rice you can stuff ’em with dried fruit, nuts, dill, cilantro, onions, or really anything that you can chop up very small and will stand up to being simmered for a hour or so. I like mine to be pretty tangy and sweet so I also add a LOT of freshly squeezed lemon juice to the cooking water and use either diced dried apricots or currants inside the leaves. This recipe is more of a formula, so please feel free to make substitutions and additions to suit your taste. If you have left over rice mixture just save it for another night and throw it in a pot and cook it like you would cook regular rice.
Ari’s Stuffed Grape Leaves
One jar of grape leaves in brine- they will look something like this
1 cup white rice (basmati or jasmine rice both work well)
1 small onion, diced
1/3 cup finely chopped parsley
1/4 cup finely chopped dill
2-3 Tbs finely chopped mint or 2 tsp dried mint
1/3 cup dried currants/chopped dried turkish apricots
1/3 cup pine nuts or chopped walnuts
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp ground coriander
salt and pepper
3 cloves garlic
Juice of 1-2 lemons
2 Tbs tomato paste
Making grape leaves is a bit of a proces. You want to leave yourself a couple of hours, and have a nice clean workspace for rolling up the stuffed leaves.
Here’s how I do it:
first I give my daughter a piece of buttered challah toast and let her watch Garfield (you can tell she loves it).
Then I carefully pull the grape leaves out of the jar, trying not to tear them, separate them a bit and place them into a large colander. Next, they get rinsed off with cold water then I pour a very generous amount of boiling hot water over all the leaves and let it drain off.
While the leaves are draining in the sink, I mix together the rice, onion, dried fruit, nuts, herbs, spices, salt and pepper. Then I pour in enough olive oil to coat it and make it look a bit shiny ~ 1/4 cup or so.
Now I begin separating the leaves out (reserving any torn leaves to line the bottom of the pan) and sort of draping them over the side of the colander so I will be able to pick them up individually. I lay the grape leaf, vein side up on a clean surface and place about a teaspoon of the rice mixture along the bottom/middle edge of the leaf like this (looking at this picture, I am realizing that I put one chopped tomato into my rice mixture that day- see you can really experiment with this recipe!):
Then I begin to roll up the leaf, first by tucking the bottom over the filling and then rolling it up while folding in the sides:
After all the grape leaves are filled, I line the bottom of a deep heavy 12-inch skillet with the torn leaves and arrange the stuffed leaves in the pan in a circular pattern, trying to place the larger bundles towards the center. Then I thinly slice a few cloves of garlic and tuck it in between the stuffed leaves:
In a small bowl or liquid measuring cup, I mix the juice of 1-2 lemons, 2 Tbs tomato paste, a few Tbs olive oil, a little salt and some water. Pour this over the tightly packed leaves and then add more water to just cover the grape leaves. Place a heavy plate over the stuffed leaves themselves (not over just the pan), making sure that you are putting some pressure on the leaves. I usually put a piece of tinfoil between the plate and the leaves with the corners sticking out so I can grab it and lift the plate off easily if I have to. You can also place a heavy mug or other heat proof object over the plate to create more pressure.
Bring the whole thing to a boil and then turn it down to a low simmer. If your plate leaves a gap between itself and the side of the pan, cover the pan with a lid to keep all the heat and steam inside. Simmer for about an hour, until all the water has cooked out.
Serve at room temperature with Tahini Sauce:
1 cup raw tahini paste
2 Tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 Tbs chopped parsley/mint (optional)
salt to taste
Whisk/blend all ingredients in a bowl or food processor and gradually add cold water until it is a good consistency for dipping. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.