Monday, May 21, 2012

Lebanese Stuffed Grape Leaves

My mom is 1/4 Lebanese and actually still has family in Lebanon (I believe). When I was a kid, we went to meet her great aunt Isabel and try some Lebanese food. Now know, at that time, I was young and VERY picky. I wasn't impressed and am quite certain I didn't eat a thing. However, my mom saved the recipes she got that day and once I became adventurous... shared them with me! Looking back, I wish I had tried the food my great-great aunt made!

There are MANY different version of stuffed grape leaves and not all are of Lebanese origin. For this recipe you'll need:

1 lb ground lamb
1 jar grape leaves
1 cup UNCOOKED rice
3 heaping tsp garlic
1 1/2 tsp mint leaves
1 tsp salt
dash of pepper
lemon juice

What are grape leaves you ask? Leaves from a grape plant and yes, they are edible. Grape leaves are these:

I bought these at Giant and you can find them in most grocery stores. The problem with finding them is location in the store. I have seen them in the pickle section, the ethnic section and by the olive oils. There are a few different brands out there and I buy whatever I can find.

First thing you want to do is open the leaves and rinse them off. When you open the jar, there will be three large cigar type rolls in there, like this:

Hold this roll under warm water and SLOWLY unroll them trying not to rip any (you will probably rip a few but that's OK. They will then look like this:

For this recipe you'll use about 2 rolls. Save the third for the next time you make these... because you will, they're yummy! Next you want to mix together all the other ingredients EXCEPT the lemon juice.

Now, separate your first leaf and lay it out. Take a small amount of meat mixture and roll it into a cigar shape, about the size of your thumb, like this:

Now, to roll it up, start at the bottom of the leaf and bring it up over the meat. next, fold each of the sides over the meat and then simply roll it up, careful to cover the meat all the way. it should look like this:

You want to put this in a large skillet on top of the stove, no need to put anything on the bottom of the pan. make sure the end of the roll, the seam, is on the bottom.

Continue making your little "cigars" and putting them around the pan. You can squish them all in there.

Next thing you want to do is put plain ol water in the pan. I used about 2 cups so they are slightly covered.

Then you want to cover with a pie pan so the leaves do not float.

Cook these about 40 minutes or until the meat and rice is cooked through. Halfway through cooking, add extra water so the leaves do not burn. This is very important. Also, I do not recommend making these while drinking. I made these with my friend Stacie in college. We decided it would be fun to drink while we cooked.... we left them on too long AND forgot to check them and add more water. They weren't so good... I think we may have ordered in.

Once the leaves are done, put them on a plate and drizzle with the lemon juice. Your delicious creation will look like this:

I hope you enjoy this as much as I do!

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