Wish Upon A Dish: Stuffed Grape Leaves - Daring Cooks Challenge October

October 14, 2010

Stuffed Grape Leaves - Daring Cooks Challenge October

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.

I am serving my grape leaves as part of an antipasti with a vinaigrette, Kalamata olives and yellow grape tomatoes from my garden. Some crumbled feta cheese would be a nice addition also.

I used my own recipe for the filling, using lamb instead of ground beef and a mixture of grains.

In order to make it Diabetic Friendly, I cut the rice down to 1/4 of the normal amount and made a mix of 1/4 cup bulgur and 1/4 cup brown rice. If you do not have Bulgar just make sure you use no more than 1/2 cup brown rice.

I also used lamb for flavor and for a more traditional Middle Eastern meat.
If you do not like the flavor of lamb you can certainly use ground beef. If you want to make it vegetarian, just double the stuffing mixture.

I always try to sneak in a bean of some kind and chopped chickpeas were a great choice here, not only did it give the stuffing a nutty flavor, it also helped to soak up some of the juices, making it an exceptional addition.

I also added chopped red peppers (I always add red peppers where I can).

I liked this stuffing recipe so much, it might just become a regular on our monthly menu. As a matter of fact, this stuffing would be great for any stuffed vegetable, e.g. zucchini, peppers, onions or squash.

Stuffed Grape Leaves with Lamb and Bulgar
* 1 jar grape leaves, drained.
* 1/4 cup Bulgar
* 1/4 cup brown rice
* 1/4 cup olive oil + 2 tbls
* 1 onion, finely chopped
* 3 cloves garlic, minced
* 1/2 pound lean ground lamb
* 1 tsp oregano
* Salt & Pepper
* 4 ounces feta cheese, grated
* 1/4 cup chopped canned chickpeas
* 3 tbls finely chopped parsley
* 2 tbls minced fresh mint
* 1 tsp sugar
* Juice of 1 lemon

1. Carefully separate the grape leaves, place in a large bowl and pour boiling water over them to cover. Let the leaves soak for 20 minutes, then drain and rinse to remove excess salt. Drain the leaves, snip off the stems (reserving stems), and lay the leaves on a towel to dry.

2. In a saucepan, bring 2 cups of salted water to a boil, and stir in the rice and Bulgar. Cover, reduce the heat to low and cook for 10 minutes, drain. Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a skillet, add the onion and saute until soft, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and saute one more minute, until aromas are released. Add the lamb and cook until the meat is well browned, breaking it apart with a fork while cooking, about 15 minutes. Add the oregano, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the feta and remove from the heat. Stir in the rice, parsley and mint.

3. Place one leaf on a flat surface, vein side up, shiny side down. Place a rounded teaspoon of filling in the center of the leaf, near the stem edge. Fold the stem end over the filling, then fold both sides toward the middle, and form into a roll. Squeeze lightly in the palm of your hand to secure the roll. Repeat process with remaining leaves and filling.

4. Line the bottom of a 3quart heavy saucepan with reserved stems, trimmings and any leftover or torn grape leaves, and arrange bundles seam sides down, packing them close together in layers.

5. Combine the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil with 3/4 cup water, the sugar, and lemon juice, and pour over the stuffed grape leaves. Place a small, heatproof plate on top of the stuffed leaves, cover the pan and simmer over low heat for about 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until leaves are tender and most of the liquid is absorbed. Serve warm or room temperature, garnished with lemon slices and mint leaves or olives and tomatoes.

Although they tasted delicious, there were a few things I learned along the way.
Do not make the stuffing ahead of time unless you leave the grain out (while it sits in the fridge it tends to soak up moisture, so when you cook them it continues to soak up moisture causing them to over swell and get mushy).

I would mix the rice/bulgur in just before stuffing the leaves. I also would not bake these in the oven. It takes forever to get the leaves to soften. Stove top is the way to go. If you are using a softer leaf (like chard or cabbage or escarole) you can bake them successfully.

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