Every time I reach for jar of pickled grape leaves, I can not help but think of my Great-Great-Grandmother spending her afternoons picking grape leaves in the garden and then later stuffing them in the kitchen. I am always wondering what inspire her to think of stuffing the leaves and make dinner out of them.
I remember coming home from school to find my mother, my aunt and a few neighbors sitting at the kitchen table, each with a stack of grape leaves and a pile of rice stuffing in the middle of the table. They would have their coffee next to them, the radio playing Arabic music, telling eachother the latest gossip all while stuffing the grape leaves.
My mom would have sandwiches ready for us to snack on to satisfy us while we finish our homework and await the beloved stuffed grape leaves. After a couple hours, each lady would go home with a pot full of stuffed grape leaves ready to be cooked.
Usually the leaves are stuffed with rice, ground beef and spices and are served for dinner. However, sometimes, the leaves are stuffed with a mixture of rice and vegetables, which we would usually serve as an appetizer.
My daughter is vegetarian recently discovered the deliciousness and amazing-ness that is the vegetarian stuffed grapeleave. So, I started to stuff jar after jar for her, trying to keep up with her demand.
I have to say, I make very good vegan stuffed grape leaves. Enjoy.
Some people rinse the rice and mixed with the vegetable but I like my rise little sticky so, I half cook the rice and then mix it with the vegetables.
Start by squeezing the extra water from the pickled leaves. Using sharp knife, cut the stem just to the edge of the leave. Place the leave shiny side down and with the wide side closer to you. Place 1 tablespoon of rice stuffing in the center of the leave and fold and roll until you have firm bundle.
Line the bottom of heavy pot with 1/2 inch thick potato slices. These potato slices will protect the leaves and prevent them from sticking to the pot.
Line the leaves tightly next to each other until you cover one layer. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle little salt and place few cloves of garlic between the leaves.
Place a plate over the stuffed leaves, pour water until you have about 1 1/2 inches of water over the plate. Place light weight over the plate in order to keep the leaves firm. I use coffee kettle filled with water as my weight.
Bring to boil, adjust the seasoning and then cook over low heat for 40 minutes. Remove the weight and gently remove the plate, drizzle lemon juice over the leaves and place the plate back. Cook for extra ten minutes. Turn off the heat and allow the stuffed leaves to rest covered for 30 minutes. I prefer to eat these leaves cold but you can enjoy them room temperature.
You can remove the stuffed leaves and place them on a serving platter or if you like to have great presentation, place flat round serving platter on top of the pot, hold firmly and turn the pot upside down. Wait about 5 minutes and then gently remove the pot. You should have cake like mold of stuffed grape leaves.
- 2 large potatoes, peeled and cut into ½ inch thick circles
- 1 pound jar pickled grape leaves
- ½ olive oil
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 1 pound short grain rice
- 2 cups finely chopped parsley
- 2 medium tomatoes, diced
- 6 cloves garlic
- ½ cup lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon allspice
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
- salt and black pepper to taste
- Line the bottom of heavy pot with the potato slices.
- In another pan, heat half of the oil and saute the onions until transparent. Add the rice, stir and cook for one minute. Add 2 cups of water, stir and bring to a boil. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the parsley, the tomatoes, and the seasoning. Mix well.
- Remove the leaves gently from the jar, wash with cold water and squeeze gently.
- Place one grape leave sunny side down and rough side up. Put one tablespoon of the stuffing the the center of the leaf. Fold the top horizontally over the stuffing, then fold the two vertical sides over the first fold; roll tightly until it reaches the leaf point, forming a cylinder 3 inch long and 1 inch thick. What is important is that you fold the ends in before rolling so the stuffing does not come out.
- Place rolls, over the potato layer, side by side until you cover all the potatoes. Repeat on top until you placed all the rolls tightly in the pot. Insert the garlic cloves between the rolls. Drizzle with the rest of the olive oil and sprinkle little salt on top of the rolls.
- On top of the final layer place a round, flat plate, and press lightly to prevent the rolls from loosening while cooking. Add water until you have about 2 inch of water over the plate. Place light weight on top of the plate to keep from moving.
- Bring the pot to a boil, turn down the heat and cook over low heat for 40 minutes. Remove the weight and the plate and pour the lemon juice over the stuffed grape rolls. Place the plate back on top of the leaves and cook over low heat for 15 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and allow the leaves to rest, covered for 15-30 minutes.
- To un-mold, remove the plate and then lace a large flat serving platter on top of the pot. Gently but firmly turn the pot upside down onto the platter. Keep the pot over the platter for 5 minutes and then gently remove the pot. Serve cold or room temperature.