Vegetables & Herbs Stuffed Grape Leaves
Updated: Jun 19
Every time I make stuffed grape leaves I am reminded of home back in Palestine. It was always at the beginning of spring and summer where my grandmother will set to pick all the tender leaves from our vines. My grandfather transformed these grape vines into an architectural natural gazebo. In what we call عريشة the vines grew tall on top of 4 pillars creating the most beautiful natural shade and the grapes hung under it like little lamps. My Tita will prep bottles and bottles of them for the winter months. And I am also reminded of my early days in the United states when my grandma would send me these grape leaves bottles a taste of home. I held on to them as I lived in a tiny bedroom on the 5th floor of Anderson hall. I didn’t even have my own bathroom yet alone a kitchen lol. Today I celebrate and honor these traditions by recreating them at home here in Chicago. Grape leaves are a common staple in the Arab world and many neighboring countries. They are often picked fresh in the spring and early summer months. Although there are many ways to use them but they are often picked to be stuffed with a mixture of vegetables, herbs and rice, or mince meat and rice. Spices, herbs and veggies might vary from region to region but the preparation is almost the same. For many picking grape leaves is an annual event a harvest if you may. It evokes all the senses and the memories of ones home and childhood. For my grandmothers its always the way to preserve the smells and bounty of spring or summer to be enjoyed year around. Its their mouneh (pantry) and the way they expressed love to their family and grandchildren.
The quantity of the leaves we prepare might seem so large but its very customary to make a large pot. The are so loved by many and get devoured so fast. My tita Georgette from my moms side always gathered the family on Sunday around a huge pot of grape leaves stacked so high over juicy lamb chops. She's so loved for her feast and the long hours and love she put into it. Come join me on my story on Instagram as we Stuff, roll and prep these savory morsels together. ...Vegetarian grape leaves are perfect as a main meal or part of a mezze table or appetizers especially in the summer months as they are delicious served room temperature.
This is not a fast or an easy meal by any means but the reward and the smell as it perfumes our home while cooking and the memories it evokes are priceless.
The stuffed bottle my grandma sends me from home in Palestine
Preparation: 1-1.5 hours
Cooking time: 1.5 hours
Serves 6 or more if served as an appetizer
1 16 oz jar of grape leaves
3-4 vine tomatoes diced small
2.5 cups short grain rice rinsed (see note) One bunch finely chopped Italian parsley
1/2 cup of fresh mint leaves chopped when available in the summer month
1/4 extra virgin olive oil
Juice of two lemons
I bunch of green onions chopped
1 jalapeño diced (optional)
Salt, pepper to taste
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp sumac
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
For the pot:
2 tomatoes sliced into rounds
2 tbls olive oil
1 head garlic cloves separated you don’t have to peel
Directions for the rice stuffing:
Rinse the rice few times in cold water until water runs clear About 5-6 times.
In a large bowl Add all filling ingredients and mix well to combine. Taste and adjust your seasoning.
Directions to prep the grape leaves
If using jarred grape leaves:
Rinse the grape leaves few times real well to remove some of the pickling salt.
If you notice that the leaves are a bit tough. Blanche them in boiling water for 3 minutes to soften the leaves. Drain and set aside.
If using fresh grape leaves:
Make sure you wash them well on cold water Bring a pot of boiling water to a bubble Gently submerge the leaves and Blanche for 1 minute until their color changes Remove the leaves and let them drain in a colander
To stuff the grape leaves:
Stack the leaves together the same side and snip off the stems with scissors. Spread the leaves on a flat surface. Work with one leaf at a time shiny side down and rough side facing you. If the leaves are too large cut the in half. And if the leaves have whole stack two of them together. Now let’s start stuffing.
Place one healing tsp of the rice mixture in the center of the leaf close to the stem. Fold the bottom of the leaf up over the filling. Fold in the sides (just like you would a burrito) roll the leaf as tight as you can away from you. Stuff, roll and repeat until you finish all your leaves. If you have any rice mixture left use it to stuff a tomato, a pepper or any vegetable.
Don’t get frustrated if your leaves don’t look as small or as tight it takes lots of practice. The more you roll, the faster and the better you become but don’t let that scare you give it a try.
Stacking the pot
Add the 2 tbls of olive oil to the bottom of the pot. Add the tomatoes in one layer
Stack the stuffed leaves in a pot so snug seam side down so they don't open while cooking.
Add enough water just to slightly cover the leaves.
Add salt to taste
Add a heat safe plate on top of the leaves big enough to fit inside the pot. to ensure they stay snug and they don’t open during the cooking process bring to a boil l, then turn the heat to low, cover the pot and simmer for 1 1/2 hours until the rice is cooked through and the grape leaves are tender.
Remove the plate
Drain some of the liquid into a bowl
Using a plate or a serving platter that’s slightly larger than the pot.
Invert the serving platter Over the pot. Make sure you are wearing heat cooking gloves. Flip the pot and platter together upside down. Let it sit for 10 minutes to take its shape. Gently lift off the pot and you are ready to eat.
It’s customary to flip the pot but If this flipping process scares you just simply arrange the leaves out of the pot onto a serving platter it’s all good.
If served as a main meal. Serve with plain yogurt, a simple salad, and lemon wedges.
The grape leaves are slightly tangy and so so satisfying. Are also delicious served at room temperature which make for a great appetizers or they are often served part of a mezze table.