I’m always on the lookout for something different to switch up the dinner doldrums. Similar to I’m sure many of you I fall into weeknight ruts of either picking up something or making the same old things over and over again. So when the lovely Liz Della Croce asked if I would want to take a peek at the newest edition to her Food From Our Ancestors series: The Ultimate Syrian Sunday Dinner I jumped at the chance. This beautiful compilation of family recipes drive home why they are favorites; comfort food, full of flavor, the dishes our mothers have been making forever, for good reason.
I’ve a weakness for stuffed grape leaves so as soon as I saw Liz’s recipe I knew that those would most certainly make the cut. I’m the gal who buys the Trader Joe’s grape leaves for just about every summer picnic but have never actually made them myself. The recipe looked simple enough and culinary challenges are pretty much my jam so in I dove.
I’ve only ever eaten rice-stuffed grape leaves and was excited that I could actually rationalize these meat-stuffed grape leaves as dinner. Add a salad (I made Liz’s Syrian salad from the book) and a side (again Liz to the rescue with Lentils and Rice with Caramelized Onions—I told you this book was good!) and now, man I’m getting excited about dinner!
These meat-stuffed grape leaves weren’t even all that hard to pull off. The jar of grape leaves I found at Whole Foods and they easily unfurl to create perfect little wrappers for the meat and rice mixture. One jar was plenty and I even has some leftover, so you know whose going to be making stuffed grape leaves again. Yay, yes, ME!
As far as stuffing and rolling I fell right into rhythm. They were like rolling up tiny little burritos: two sides in, bottom over filling, roll, roll, roll.
Then you pile them in a pot, cover with water, and weigh them down with a plate. Simmer until the rice is cooked—they only take about 15 minutes! They are excellent hot, room temperature, or cold. It’s the lemon that I love, no the mint, no the lemon. Either way, so good.
- 1 (2-pound) jar of grape leaves (roughly 50 leaves)
- 1 pound ground sirloin
- 1/2 cup lon-grain white rice, rinsed
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- juice of 2 lemons
- 2 celery stalks, cut into thirds, optional
- 5 cabbage leaves, optional
- 2 tablespoons dried mint
- Line a large pot with celery stalks and loose cabbage leaves (I used extra grape leaves).
- Place grape leaves on a plate and trim any large, thick stems off bottom.
- In a large bowl, combine ground meat, rice, juice of 1 lemon, garlic, salt, and pepper.
- Working one grape leaf at a time, place the leaf flat on a plate and add 1 tablespoon of the meat mixture near stem.
- Form meat into thin cigar shapes, then roll the grape leaf starting at the stem all the way to the top. No need to fold in sides but they'll look nicer if you do.
- Line stuffed grape leaves in pot, alternating direction with each layer, until the pot is filled 3/4 of the way or you've used all your leaves.
- Cover the grape leaves with water, making sure there's at least one inch of liquid above the grape leaves. Pour in remaining lemon juice and add dried mint.
- Cover grape leaves with a small plate turned upside down to keep them from moving and to weigh them down.
- Cover pot with lid and bring to a simmer.
- Reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes or until rice is fully cooked. Serve with pita bread and cucumber laban.
Liz suggests lining the cooking pot with celery stalks and cabbage leaves. I didn't have either, so I used a few of the torn and tiny grape leaves instead
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