G. is for Grape Leaves. These are one of my favorite appetizers. They also make a great snack or side dish. The recipe to make the stuffing is quite easy, but stuffing the grape leaves takes a bit of practice and some luck. Try it!
For the Rice Stuffing:
- 3 tablespoons currants
- Warm water
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons pine nuts
- 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
- 1 cup long grain white rice (brown rice can be used too!)
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 2 cups hot water
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 2 tablespoons finely-chopped fresh mint leaves
- 2 tablespoons finely-chopped fresh dill
- 2 tablespoons finely-chopped fresh parsley
- Salt and freshly-ground pepper to taste
For the Leaves
- 1 (16-ounce) jar grape leaves
- 2 cups hot water
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
Directions to make the rice stuffing:
- Soak currants in warm water for 20 minutes; drain and set aside.
- In a saucepan heat olive oil over medium heat
- Add pine nuts; stir and cook the pine for about 2 minutes until they are golden brown. (watch carefully so that they don’t burn!)
- Add onion, rice, sugar, cinnamon, and hot water
- Stir and cover
- Cook until all the water has been absorbed (about 15 to 20 minutes)
- Remove from heat and stir in the lemon juice, dill, mint and parsley
- Season to taste with salt and pepper
- Let cool about 40 minutes before rolling grape leaves
Directions to prepare leaves
- Fill a large pot with salted water and bring to a boil.
- As the water is heating, trim the leaves by cutting the stems off, flush with the leaves.
- Trim any large, hard veins from the leaves.
- Place the leaves in the boiling water and let them soften for 3-5 minutes till they become pliable
- Drain and cover leaves with cold water
- Drain the leaves again and pat them dry.
- Take a leaf and carefully spread it on a cutting board with the shiny side down, bumpy side up
- Place 1 to 2 tablespoons of the rice stuffing near where the stem was(amt will depend on size of leaf)
- Fold the stem end of the leaf over the filling
- Fold both sides toward the middle, and then roll up into a cigar shape
- Squeeze lightly in the palm of your hand to seal the roll
- Repeat until filling is gone. Set aside any torn leaves
- Line the bottom of a large pot with the torn and unused leaves to create a bed for the stuffed grape leaves
- Arrange the stuffed grape rolls seam side down close together
- Pour the 2 cups hot water, olive oil, and lemon juice over them
- Heat over medium heat until the liquid begins to simmer
- Turn heat to low
- Weigh the stuffed grapes rolls down with an oven proof plate turned upside down
- Cover the baking dish with a lid and cook 35 to 40 minutes until the grape leaves are tender.