Our across-the-street neighbors grow grapes in their backyard. Just a few vines against a sunny fence. I've never happened to be there when the grapes ripen, but I do pop over occasionally in the spring when the leaves are light green and tender - perfect for stuffing.
Stuffed grape leaves are one of my favorite snacks but for years I resisted making them at home. Then I met Lisa Fielding, an entertainment-industry-executive-turned-screenwriter-and-underground-restaurant-chef-and-caterer (her company: Secret Ingredients). Lisa's a California girl but her father's job took the family abroad during her youth, including a few years in Beirut. These stuffed grape leaves with ground lamb and fresh mint remind Lisa of her years in Lebanon
Most of us don't have access to fresh grape leaves; the grape leaves packed in brine sold in jars work very well. If you're using fresh leaves, as I did, blanch them in boiling water for about 30 seconds before making the rolls, and add more salt and lemon to make up for the lack of brine.
Stuffed grape leaves with lamb and mint
I learned to make these Lebanese-style stuffed grape leaves from Los Angeles caterer Lisa Fielding. If you can get fresh grape leaves, by all means use them; blanch them in boiling water for 30 seconds before making the rolls, and add a little extra salt and lemon.
- 1 jar grape leaves, brined (about 50; look for them in the pickle section)
- 1 pound ground lamb
- 1 16-ounce can tomatoes, diced
- 1 cup long-grain white rice, uncooked
- 1 cup olive oil
- 2 bunches green onions, chopped
- 2 large bunches fresh mint, chopped (about 3 cups)
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 lemons, juice only
Remove the grape leaves from the jar and rinse in cold water. With a scissor, snip the tough stem off the bottom of each leaf. Set aside.In a large bowl, mix the lamb, tomatoes, rice, olive oil, green onions, mint, and salt.Lay one grape leaf, vein-side up, on a cutting board. Place a tablespoon of filling in the middle of the leaf. Now this is the tricky part. Fold up the bottom of the leaf over the filling. Fold down the top of the leaf over the filling. Now tuck one side under the filling and roll sideways into a little cigar shape, just as you would roll a burrito. Don't be too rough, or you'll split the grape leaf and the filling will squirt out.When you've rolled all the grape leaves, pack them into a pot with a steamer insert. Put them snugly next to each other; this will help the grape leaves hold their shape as they're cooking. Pour the lemon juice over, fill the pot up to the level of the steamer, and place over high heat until the water boils. Turn down the heat and steam the grape leaves about one hour, or until the rice is cooked (test after 50 minutes by cutting open one of the rolls).Serve warm with plain yogurt.
DetailsPrep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: about 45 pieces