Thankfully, one of the few things my entire extended family can agree on is food! Every time you visit, you eat. Holiday celebrations are usually planned to include at least one meal, if not numerous. Unlike many families, Christmas is not our busiest time of year, Easter is!
One of our many celebrations and meals was with my mom's mother. This meal was never the standard American Easter dinner of ham, potatoes, roasted veggies and a green salad. My grandma always made us lamb, stuffed grape leaves, and moussaka!
While, I have yet to master either the lamb or moussaka, I have come up with a great recipe for stuffed grape leaves.
Meat and Rice Stuffed Grape Leaves
makes about 45-50 grape leaves
- 1 15- to 16-ounce jar grape leaves, drained
- 1 lbs ground meat (all ground beef or all lamb, or a mixture)
- 1 cup uncooked rice couscous or quinoa
- 1 large onion, finely diced
- 2 Tbsp fresh dill, minced
- 1/3 cup minced fresh parsley
- 2 Tbsp minced fresh mint or 2 teaspoons dried
- 1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- salt and pepper
- 4 Tbsp lemon juice, plus lemon wedges for serving
- Put a large saucepan of water on to boil. Remove grape leaves from the jar and unroll. Separate into two piles. One of whole leaves and one with any torn leaves or pieces of leaves. The whole leaves will be used for rolling. Set aside the broken leaves for now.
- Cook the whole grape leaves in the boiling water for 5 minutes. Drain in a colander.
- In a large skillet, brown the ground lamb (or beef) until no longer pink in color. Add the onions and saute until translucent, approximately 5 minutes.
- Stir in the dill, parsley, and rice. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and stir in 2 Tbsp lemon juice and mint.
- Line the bottom of a heavy saucepan, stock pot or Dutch oven with a layer of broken or torn grape leaves.
- To stuff the leaves, start with your largest whole leaves. Take a leaf and carefully spread it on a flat plate or other clean flat surface with the veins facing upward to you; the leaf shiny side down. Place 1 to 2 tablespoons (depending on the size of the leaf) of the meat and rice filling near the stem end of the leaf. Press the filling into a small sausage-like shape. Fold the stem end of the leaf over the filling, then fold both sides toward the middle, and then roll up into a cigar shape. The rolls should be cylindrical and snug but not too tight. Repeat with the remaining grape leaves and filling. For step by step video click here.
- Arrange the stuffed grape leaf rolls on top of the leaves, seam-side down, packing them close together in a circular pattern. Make a new layer as you fill the baking pan.
- Cover the stuffed grape leaves with any remaining broken leaves. Add olive oil, the remaining lemon juice and enough water to cover the rolls by about an inch. Cover with a lid and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer over low heat for 45 minutes to an hour or until the leaves are tender and the rice is cooked through.