Meatless Monday: Stuffed grape leaves

Stuffed grape leaves are a popular appetizer across Europe and the Middle East.

By , Novel Eats

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    Grape leaves stuffed with rice and fresh herbs are also known as dolmas or dolmades.
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One of my New Year's resolutions one year was to try to make more foods outside of my comfort and cultural zones. While I love the food I grew up on – the mashed potatoes, fried okra and apple pie, I think that it’s too easy to always fall back on those. It’s time to break out a little and try my hand at new cuisines.

I have wanted to learn how to make for quite some time stuffed grape leaves, also known as dolmas or dolmades, a food that can be found in many areas of Europe including Greece and the Middle East. Because this is made in a variety of places, it can be made in many different ways, so this is just one recipe of many that you can try. (Quick note: not all stuffed grape leaves are meat-free. If you buy it from a store or order it at a restaurant make sure that you’re getting vegetarian [vegan] stuffed grape leaves.)

Stuffed Grape Leaves
Makes about 50 or 60 dolmas
This recipe is based upon My Own Famous Stuffed Grape Leaves found at allrecipes.com

2 cups uncooked long-grain white rice
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 cup chopped fresh dill (I did not have fresh dill, so I used about 2 or 3 tablespoons dried dill)
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
2 quarts vegetable or vegan chicken broth
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice, divided
60 grape leaves, drained and rinsed
hot water as needed
1 cup olive oil

Gather together and prepare your ingredients.

In a large saucepan sautée your rice, onion, parsley and dill in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil over medium to medium-high heat for about five minutes. Add half of your broth to the rice and turn down the heat, and let simmer for about 10 or 15 minutes.

Don’t allow the rice to cook completely, and once the 10 or 15 minutes is up, take it off the heat.

Stir in about half of the lemon juice and allow to cool for a few minutes. I used a strainer to make sure no small seeds were added into the rice.

Take one grape leaf, with the shiny side down and the protruding veins facing you, and add about one to two teaspoons of rice mixture close to the bottom of the leaf.

Then proceed to wrap your grape leaf by following these steps:

  1. First, fold the bottom left part of the leaf over the rice.
  2. Then, fold the bottom right part of the leaf over the rice.
  3. Fold over the top left portion of the leaf.
  4. Fold over the top right portion of the leaf.
  5. Roll up the rest of the leaf.
  6. Done!

Place each stuffed grape leaf into a large saucepan, and make sure that they are placed tightly together.

Once all of the stuffed grape leaves have been added to your saucepan, sprinkle the remaining lemon juice over them, then pour the cup of olive oil and remaining broth over them. Place a plate top side down on top of the stuffed grape leaves to weigh them down and keep them submerged.

Cover the saucepan with a lid and cook on medium low to medium heat for about 30 minutes (the original recipe calls for a full hour, but you may find that your rice is too mushy if you cook them for that long). Let these sit in the refrigerator for several hours overnight, then serve cold. You can serve these as an appetizer, a snack or with a salad.

These are so easy to make, although I will say that I imagine that these would be easier to make with fresh grape leaves. The leaves I purchased were stuck together and if I wasn’t careful some leaves tore easily making them unusable. It also seems it would be better to select your own leaves because some were already torn or had holes in them. I would imagine that these would be a great thing to make when your herb garden and grapes are coming into their own in the summer, that way you can rely on your own backyard for ingredients.

Despite some frustrations with the grape leaves, I think that these turned out great and I’m impressed with how simple it is to make them. While they don’t taste exactly like what I’ve had from the store, they do taste similar and taste just as good. They are lemony and spicy, and I love how fresh these taste.

Samantha Mills writes a vegan blog at Novel Eats.

To see a step-by-step photo illustration of this recipe, click here.

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