Nawal's stuffed grape leaves
The Recipe Hunters in Lebanon
We venture to a small village on Mount Lebanon called Arsoun to meet Nawal, a talented Lebanese homecook. We enter her porch and walk past pine cones drying in the sun, goat milk straining to make labneh balls, and a batch of homegrown potatoes roasting on her wood-fired stove. Minutes later we are collecting grape leaves to make her vegan stuffed grape leaves recipes. Nawal is a keeper of traditional Lebanese food customs. Watch her in action in this film and you'll be inspired to make this easy-to-make and absoutely delicious recipe!
2. prepare the grape leaves
2 bunches of curly parsley
2 bunches of mint
4 medium tomatoes
1 cup of white jasmine rice - washed until water runs clear
1 tablespoon of spicy red pepper flakes (optional)
EVOO on hand
Sea Salt on hand
2-3 juicy lemons
Grape Leaves - about 50-70 depending on the size
2 large golden potatoes - sliced into 3/8-inch rounds
Special Equipment Considerations:
An oven-safe plate that can fit perfectly inside the pot you are using to boil the grape leaves. This plate will be placed over the grape leaves while cooking to ensure the grape leaves do not come apart when you boil them.
1. forage for grape leaves or buy them in a Mediterranean grocery store.
Drop the grape leaves into boiling water, a few at a time. Let them cook for about 2-3 minutes or until they are soft. Remove them from the water and allow them to cool as you prepare the filling.
3. The filling
Dice the parsley, mint, tomatoes, onion very finely and combine in a large mixing bowl. Add the red pepper flakes and 1 Tbsp of salt. Mix the ingredients using your hands until they are evenly distributed. Dress the filling with lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, and additional salt (if needed) to taste.
4. Rolling the leaves
Grab a leaf and place it smooth side down (vein side up) on a flat clean working surface. The leaf’s tips should be facing away from you and the place where the stem was attached (its base) should be closest to you. Add a teaspoon of stuffing right above the base of the leaf. The center vein of the leaf should help you align. Fold up the bottom of the grape leaf over the filling, by sliding your thumbs under the grape leaf and rolling the leaf tightly over the stuffing. Next, fold the right, then left sides of the leaf towards the middle vein like closing a 3-page pamphlet. Now slide your thumbs underneath the grape leaf where the stuffing sits and roll the grape leaf upwards. Tightly continue to roll the grape leaf from the bottom all the way to the top. Roll tightly but not so tightly that you rip the leaf. Keep rolling until the grape leaf has somersaulted into a compact little cylinder. Roll all leaves. Do not discard the liquid after the leaves are all rolled.
Add the potato rounds to the bottom of the pan. Apart from being delicious, the potatoes are used to ensure the grape leaves do not stick to the bottom of the pan. Carefully place the grape leaves in layers snugly on top of the potatoes - this is important; the grape leaves need to be compressed side by side so that when they are in the boiling broth, they do not break open. Gently pour the extra juices from the stuffing over the grape leaves until there is an inch of liquid covering the grape leaves, add water if there isn't enough liquid. Add a pinch of salt and a pour of olive oil for good measure :) Cover with an oven-safe plate (this also ensures that the grape leaves do not come apart). Bring the liquid to a boil. Once the liquid starts to boil, turn down to low, cover with a lid and wait 25-30 minutes or until the rice in the leaves is cooked and soft. At this point, the great majority of the liquid broth should have been absorbed by the rice and you should be able to flip the pot onto a large plate. Voila! Enjoy!
serves: 10 | prep time: 1 hr | cook time: 40 minutes