Have you ever had grape leaves? If you did, you’ll agree it’s delicious, stuffed with meat & rice or vegetables & rice. You might be hesitant to make grape leaves, please DON’T, it’s easy & simple.
Grape leaves are widely used in The Middle East, Greece, Romania & Turkey. In Lebanon, we picked grape leaves fresh from the vine and stuff them with rice & meat. The original way of making grape leaves was a labor of love due to the delicate rolling & the small size of the grape leaf, lamb chops were added to the bottom of pot then cooked on a very low & slow heat for hours which made the meal a feast when it was done. The whole family gathered around the table to enjoy the meal. It took center stage, the taste was amazing, juicy, lemony, tender and delicious.
However, today not all of us are fortunate to have a vine in our back yard, therefore we have to buy the grape leaves in a jar. There are lots of brands available, I like Orlando Grape Leaves, they’re lighter in color & tender.
If you can get your hands on fresh grape leaves from the vine, please cook them instead of the jar ones. All you have to do is throw them in hot water for few minutes, this method will tenderize the leaf & make it pliable to roll easy it’s worth the time & effort.
I am sharing with you the recipe that’s in our E-Book “Merriam’s & Mona’s Lebanese Table”. I use the grape leaves in the jar, tomato sauce is added for a tarty flavor. It’s also delicious & satisfying and is served hot as a main dish. Vegetables stuffed grape leaves when cooked vegetarian style can be served cold as an appetizer (mezza) or as a side dish.
Stuffed Grape Leaves w/meat & rice
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1 jar of grape leaves
- 3 cups of short grain rice
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp 7 spices
- 1 stick of unsalted butter melted
- 1 medium diced tomato
- 1 medium can of tomato sauce
- 6 cups of water (enough to cover )
- 1 tsp Salt
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 juice of one lemon
Rinse the rice, drain well. Combine the rice, the ground beef. Add the melted butter, diced tomatoes, salt, 7 spices & cinnamon, mix well & set aside.
Rinse the grape leaves well. Tear off the stems on each grape leaf top. On a cutting board, spread each grape leaf and stuff with a little meat & rice mixture, about 1 tablespoon, do not over stuff, close ends & roll. Repeat, stuffing all the grape leaves until done.
Line the grape leaves in a large pot and cover with water, tomato sauce & salt. Place a small plate on top of the grape leaves & leave uncovered.
Weigh down the plate with a heavy object to keep grape leaves from opening. Cook on low heat for about 2 hours.
An hour later, remove the heavy object & plate, cover & continue simmering on very low heat. When done remove from heat, add in the lemon juice.
Serve hot, I like to serve it with Greek yogurt on the side.