Originally posted on November 13, 2004 as "Leaves of the Grape."
Grapes are awesome. You can eat them, drink their juice (fermented or not), rub the extract of their seeds on your face to make you look younger, and eat their leaves.
Tonight I made my Killer Stuffed Grape Leaves, and I'm going to share the recipe with you. It's a good weekend recipe because, although fairly easy, it does require some time to roll the leaves.
This is a vegetarian recipe, but in the past I have added ground lamb to the mix, as well as ground beef. I've also served these as an accompaniment to grilled lamb chops.
9 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 stalk celery, minced
1 teaspoon dried dill
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds, unsalted
1/8 cup dried currants or raisins
2-3 cups steamed rice (I use basmati)
1-16 oz jar grape leaves
juice of one lime or lemon
2-3 bay leaves
1. Cook rice according to package directions.
2. Carefully remove grape leaves from jar. Rinse well and drain well.
3. Heat 5 tablespoons of the oil and sauté onion, garlic and celery until translucent.
4. Add dill, cardamom, seeds, currants and remove from heat.
5. Combine with rice and mix well.
6. Place 1-2 tablespoons of the rice mixture on a grape leaf and roll, tucking in the sides as you go.
7. Arrange stuffed leaves in an oven proof baking dish.
8. Mix the lime or lemon juice, remaining oil, and enough water to make a cup of liquid.
9. Pour liquid over leaves and top with lemon slices and 2 or 3 bay leaves.
10. Cover with baking dish lid or loosely with foil and bake @ 350°F (180°C) for 45 minutes.
Note: may prepare up to step 7 and refrigerate for a couple of days ahead.
Other note: When I lived in the US (we're talking 1993 here, six months of fun in Wooster, Ohio), I found dried currants in a health food store, but they were really expensive. So I substituted tiny raisins. The other day I found dried currants here for the first time in 12 years, and they were a good price, so I bought them. But honestly, the difference in flavor is negligible. So go for the raisins. Just make sure they're small.
I've also substituted chopped raw almonds for the sunflower seeds. And the grape leaves are salty from their brine, so I don't add salt to this until after I cook it.
Oh! And the rice mixture can go into any stuffable vegetable...
And now for the photo essay:
Mince the garlic, celery and onions. I wasn't done with the onions.
Now I'm done with the onions. Use a sharper knife than I did.
Sauté the onions-n-things in olive oil. I just count out five glugs of the stuff.
Add the dill, cardamom, seeds (or nuts) and currants to the onions, and mix into the cooked rice. Taste it. Yum.
Look at that pretty grape leaf.
The amount of the rice you use depends on the size of the leaf, of course.
Fold up the bottom of the leaf.
Then fold in the sides, and roll up. You will probably need to continue folding in the sides of the leaves in order to make a nice tight little...
Actually, I don't know if this recipe is authentic Greek, since I combined two recipes from American cookbooks, and then tweaked the thing further. In any case, these are tasty, and sometimes that is all that matters.