Thursday, October 14, 2010

Daring Cooks: Stuffed Grape Leaves



This month yours truly hosted the Daring Cooks challenge of stuffed grape leaves.  Because I know so many people would be unable to find grape leaves we allowed other tough greens.  If you have the chance to acquire grape leaves I highly recommend this recipe- especially with the apricots if you are not vegetarian.  If you are vegetarian, the second recipe  is really delicious as well.  Don't be afraid of rolling.  It is way easier than you think it is.  I have put it off for years and was glad that the Daring Cooks needed someone because it was a perfect excuse to take the plunge.

And a plug (not being paid to say this), these two books are excellent sources of Middle Eastern food, Claudia Roden's The New Book of Middle Eastern Food a Borzoi Book, published by Alfred A. Knopf and Jewish Syrian food, Aromas of Aleppo by Poopa Dweck and Michael J. Cohen .  They are full of excellent recipes.  I have tried many of the recipes in this book and have not been disappointed.

Here are the checking lines for the month:  Our October 2010 hostess, Lori of Lori’s Lipsmacking Goodness, has challenged The Daring Cooks to stuff grape leaves. Lori chose a recipe from Aromas of Aleppo and a recipe from The New Book of Middle Eastern Food.


Historical Note: Stuffed grape leaves are a part of many cultures including the Syrians, the Turks, the Greeks, the Lebanese, the Albanians, the Israeli's, the Iranians, the Iraqis and the Armenians (just to name a few). Generally speaking the stuffed part could be in zucchinis/courgette, eggplant, tomato or peppers. Really it also extends to stuffing certain types of fish as well. It is suggested that the origin of stuffed grape leaves goes back to the time when Alexander the Great besieged Thebes. It has also been suggested the Byzantines refined and spiced up the recipe and used the leaves of other vines such as hazelnuts and figs.

THE CHALLENGE RECIPE
Preparation time: The recipe will take up to 2 hours, depending on how fast you roll. You can freeze them before boiling if you want to try to do half of the recipe ahead of time.
Equipment required:
Heatproof plate, lid or pie plate. Something to weight the stuffed grape leaves down in the sauce pan.
A sauce pan.

Grape Leaves Stuffed with Ground Meat and Rice with Apricot Tamarind Sauce/ Yebra
Adapted from Aromas of Aleppo by Poopa Dweck and Michael J. Cohen. Published by Harper Collins, 2007
Yield: 6 to 8 servings
Ingredients for hashu/filling:
1 pound (455 gm) ground (minced) beef
1/3 cup (80 ml) (2 1/3 oz) (65 gm) short grain rice
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (6 gm) all spice
2 tablespoons (30 ml) vegetable oil
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (6 gm) cinnamon
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (3 gm) kosher (coarse) salt **if using regular table salt only use ½ tsp.**
¼ teaspoon (1¼ ml) (1½ gm) white pepper
1 onion, chopped **optional**
1 cup (5½ oz) (150 gm) pine nuts **optional**
Directions:
1.Soak rice in water, enough to cover, for 30 minutes. Combine meat, rice, allspice, vegetable oil, cinnamon, salt, white pepper, and if desired, onion and pine nuts, in a large mixing bowl. Mix well.
Ingredients for assembly:
1 pound (455 gm) hashu/filling (see recipe above)
36 preserved grape leaves, stems trimmed, drained, rinsed and patted dry
1 tablespoon (15 ml) vegetable oil
6 dried apricots – or more if you desire
3 tablespoons (45 ml) tamarind concentrate **if you can’t find it, you can omit it**
¼ cup (60 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon (15 ml) (9 gm) kosher (coarse) salt **if using regular table salt only use 1.5 tsp.**
Notes:
If using grape leaves preserved in brine, to remove salt put them in a bowl and pour boiling water over them. Make sure that the water penetrates well between the layers, and leave them soaking for about twenty minutes, then change the water a time or two using fresh cold water.
If using fresh leaves, plunge a few at a time in boiling water for a few seconds only, until they become limp, and lift them out.
Tamarind is actually fairly easy to find.  There is a paste that is in package already made up.  You can find it at Asian, Mexican or Indian grocers.  You can also find the pods (a little more difficult) and make it yourself.  It is akin to a sweet/tangy tea flavor. If you can’t find it, you can skip the sauce all togheter. The grape leaves will be just as delicious without the sauce. But we hope that those that can find it will use it.
Directions:
1.Place a grape leaf on a flat surface, vein side up. You can trim the little stem if you would like.
2.Place about two teaspoons (10 ml) of the filling in the center of the leaf, near the stem edge.
3.Roll the leaf end to end, starting from the stem edge. As you roll, fold the sides of the leaf in toward the center. The leaf should resemble a small cigar, about 2 to 2 1/2 inches (50 mm to 65mm) long.
4.Repeat with the remaining leaves and filling.
a.(You can freeze the stuffed grape leaves at this point. Just line a baking sheet with wax paper. When firmly frozen, transfer to an airtight plastic bag place back in the freezer.)
5.In a medium saucepan put in the vegetable oil and then place the filled grape leaves in the pot.
6.Place apricots in between the stuffed grape leaves. Cover and cook over low heat for 5- 8 minutes or until the grape leaves begin to sweat.
7.Using all three tablespoons, place a little of the tamarind concentrate, if using, over the rolls.
8.Combine lemon juice, salt, and water then add to pan, filling it ¾ full.
9.Weigh down the grape leaves with a heat proof plate or board to prevent them from unraveling. Cover and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 40 minutes.
a.Alternatively, place the saucepan in an oven preheated to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4 and cook for an hour.
10.Spoon cooking liquid over the grape leaves occasionally. You will know they are done, when the grape leaves are neither soupy nor dry.
11.Tilt pan sideways over serving platter, allowing the grape leaves to tumble out. Try not to handle them individually to reduce unraveling.
a.Alternately you can try spooning them out very gently.

Wara Einab or Dolma/Cold Stuffed Grape Leaves
Adapted from Claudia Roden's The New Book of Middle Eastern Food a Borzoi Book, published by Alfred A. Knopf
Yield: 6 to 8 servings
Ingredients
24 – 30 preserved or fresh grape leaves.
1¼ cups (300 ml) (9 oz) (250 gm) long grain rice
1- 3 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1 large onion, finely chopped or 4 tablespoons (60 ml) (35 gm) finely chopped scallions
2 tablespoons (30 ml) (25 gm) finely chopped flat leaf parsley
2 tablespoons (30 ml) (15 gm) crushed dried mint
¼ teaspoon (1¼ ml) (1½ gm) ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon (1¼ ml) (1½ gm) ground allspice
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (6½ gm) dill
Salt and pepper
2 tomatoes, sliced **optional**
3 or 4 cloves garlic
2/3 cup (160 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (5 gm) sugar
Juice of 1 lemon or more
Notes:
If using grape leaves preserved in brine, to remove salt put them in a bowl and pour boiling water over them. Make sure that the water penetrates well between the layers, and leave them soaking for about twenty minutes, then change the water a time or two using fresh cold water.
If using fresh leaves, plunge a few at a time in boiling water for a few seconds only, until they become limp, and lift them out.
Directions:
1.Pour boiling water over the rice and stir well, then rinse with cold water and let drain.
2.Mix the rice with the chopped tomatoes, onion or scallion, parsley, mint, cinnamon, allspice, dill, salt and pepper to taste.
3.Place a grape leaf on a flat surface, vein side up.

4.Place about two teaspoons (10 ml) of the filling in the center of the leaf, near the stem edge.

5.Roll the leaf end to end, starting from the stem edge. As you roll, fold the sides of the leaf in toward the center. The leaf should resemble a small cigar, about 2 to 2 1/2 inches (50 mm to 65mm) long.

6.Repeat with the remaining leaves and filling.


a.(You can freeze the stuffed grape leaves at this point. Just line a baking sheet with wax paper. When firmly frozen, transfer to an airtight plastic bag place back in the freezer.)
7.Pack the stuffed leaves tightly in a large pan lined with tomato slices or imperfect grape leaves Place a whole garlic clove in between them for extra flavor. The tightness will help prevent the rolls from unraveling.

8.Mix together olive oil, 2/3 cup (160 ml) water, sugar and lemon juice and pour over the stuffed leaves. Put a small heat proof plate on top of the leaves to prevent them from unwinding, cover the pan and simmer very gently for about 1 hour, until the rolls are thoroughly cooked, adding water occasionally, a cup at a time, as the liquid in the pan becomes absorbed. Cool in the pan before turning out. Serve cold.
There are many variations you can use but here are just a few suggestions:
Add ¼ cup (60 ml) (1½ oz) (45 gm) raisins or currants and ¼ cup (60 ml) (1⅓ oz) (40 gm) pine nuts to the filling.
Mix a pinch or two of powdered saffron with the olive oil and water before pouring over the stuffed grape leaves.
Soak about ¼ cup (60 ml) (1½ oz) (45 gm) dried chickpeas in water overnight. Crush them using a processor or blender and add them to the filling. In this case use ¼ cup (60 ml) (1¾ oz) (50 gm) less rice. You could also use drained canned chickpeas.

Additional Information:
http://greekfood.about.com/od/greekcookinglessons/ss/foldleaves.htm
http://whatscookingamerica.net/Vegetables/StuffedGrapeLeaves.htm
http://www.squidoo.com/stuffed-grape-leaves
Video:
http://www.5min.com/Video/How-to-Make-Stuffed-Grape-Leaves-101615656
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1DlKlzltajg
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lSyOUhHzIoQ&feature=related

28 comments:

natalia said...

Ciao Lori ! I really loved your idea ! It was a wonderful challenge : Grazie !!

Audax said...

Thank you for the fabulous challenge i really like it a lot and I think so did many other members. Cheers from Audax in Sydney Australia.

shelley c. said...

Thank you, Lori, for such an interesting challenge and for being such a wonderful hostess! I was so glad to learn and try something new, and really appreciate the time and effort you put in to preparing this challenge!

outoftheoven said...

Thanks for a great challenge!

kat said...

It does sound great with the apricots!

Monkeyshines in the Kitchen said...

Thank your for hosting an excellent challenge Lori! We were delighted to learn how to make vastly superior dolmade compared to our prior efforts and will keep these recipes on file!

Mexico in my kitchen said...

I love Stuffed grape leaves, even my son eats them.
Next time I will add the apricot.

I like the recipe my friend from give recipe has on her blog. Of course I always change something but it is a good option. She is a girl blogging Turkey;

http://www.giverecipe.com/

That is the address for her blog I know you would like lot for her recipes since you love to cook from many cultures.

Have a nice day.

Mely

Junglefrog said...

Thanks Lori for making me try something I had never done before, even though I didn't particularly like the end result.. :) It was a fun challenge!

vanillasugar said...

i love these in a traditional greek salad, BUT I never thought of apricots. Clever you.

The Blonde Duck said...

I love these!

Cheap Ethnic Eatz said...

Thank you for the challenge, funny enough I made some days before this was announced so I had done my challenge even before lol. And I got to use fresh of the plant leaves.

Suzler said...

Thank you for such an enjoyable challenge, Lori. I had a lovely afternoon rolling my vine leaves and they went down so well with everyone. Absolutely delicious! I made the veggie version, but I'll definitely be giving the beef apricot tamarind recipe a go.

Great photos! They were a real help. Thanks for all your work. :D

cuppy said...

Thank you so much for a wonderful recipe and a great challenge! I love having cost effective recipes for my favorite sinfully delicious foods, and you knocked this one out of the ballpark for me. Thank you so much.

I've still yet to try the apricots and sauce on the first recipe, but I'll have to wait until after New Year's to break my budget rules again. :) Definitely keepers!

Mary said...

Thanks for such a fun challenge, and one that was new to many people. I'll be thinking a lot more about which vegetables I can stuff, and what I can put in them. :)

Barbara Bakes said...

Thanks for a fun challenge Lori. I thought the apricot sauce was a wonderful addition to grape leaves.

Ruth H. said...

Thank you so much for this educational, well-researched and truely daring challenge! I learned a lot, and look forward to playing around with the ideas in the future!

Judy said...

Great challenge! Gave me a chance to experiment.

Les rêves d'une boulangère (Brittany) said...

Worth the work! They look fabulous; and I know for sure that they are yummy.

Barbara said...

You did a super job, Lori. I tried it once and the leaves were so delicate they fell apart! I really must try again. What an interesting challenge!

(Isn't this a new blog layout? I love it!)

shaz said...

Great job hosting the challenge. This is one dish I've never actually attempted to make, might try it out soon, sounds fab! Claudia ROden's book is one I've heard heaps of good things about too.

Ingrid said...

SO, are you saying you don't know you rock? Seriously? You do...go now to your mirror and say "I rock! How do I know? 'Cause Ingrid says it's so!" :)

Sorry about blogger not playing nice.

Hope you have a WONDERFUL weekend!
~ingrid

A SPICY PERSPECTIVE said...

How cool that you got to host! Stuffed grape leaves was a GREAT idea!

FamilySpice said...

Great challenge! I forgot how much we love dolmehs! Thank you for hosting!

Jennifurla said...

Lovely post, newest follower here. Look forward to future reading & recipes.

Valérie said...

Lori, thank you for hosting this challenge. I'd had a previous bad experience with stuffing grape leaves, but this challenge reconciled me with them. Thank you!

PJ said...

oh wow, looks perfect! i always thought this would be too difficult but with your step by step pictures, sounds extremely doable. bookmarking it now. thanks for the book recommendation as well.

Lisa said...

Lori - thank you so much for an awesome challenge! Sorry for the delay in posting this, but I've been so busy it's been hard to get to this!

That said..your grape leaves look amazing, and looking at them, I SO wish I could love them. I've been trying for 20 years, and it still hasn't happened (sorta sounds like some marriages, huh? LOL)

grace said...

this is something i'd love to learn to prepare for myself--it's a cooking skill that'd come in handy time and time again! well done, lori!

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