Lebanese Stuffed Grape Leaves
Adapted from Lebanese Cuisine by Madelain Farah
Team A: Grape leaf duty. Carefully separate leaves from one 8-ounce jar of grape leaves and rinse in a pot of hot (but not boiling) water to dilute the brine in which they have been packed. In batches, drain over a wire rack or on rim of a colander.
Team B: Filling. Rinse 1 cup Egyptian rice (or any short-grain variety) and drain. Place in a large mixing bowl. Add 1 pound ground beef or lamb, 2 diced plum tomatoes, 1/4 teaspoon each allspice and cinnamon, 1 teaspoon salt and pepper to taste. With clean hands, mix well, making sure that ingredients are well combined and that meat is broken up.
Everyone: Assembly line. Place leaf, vein-side up, on work surface. Stem should be closest to you. Scoop approximately one teaspoon of filling and place at stem end, allowing it to extend the width of the leaf.
On each side of the leaf, there is an end flap. Place flaps over filling. Tuck sides of leaf, then roll. Alternate tucking flaps with rolling. Do not roll too tightly, or rice will not expand. Seal the parcel by pressing the end with your finger. Stack in a grape leaf-lined pot, in snug rows.
Team C: Eye on the pot. Add water, enough to cover grape leaves about 3/4 high. Scatter 7 cloves of whole, peeled garlic over the leaves. Place a plate on top, one that is small enough to fit inside the pot. Cover and simmer on lowish heat, about 15 minutes. Uncover, remove plate and pour 1/4 cup lemon juice (about 1 lemon) over leaves. Return plate and cover, cooking for another 15-20 minutes. Check for doneness of rice by removing one stuffed leaf and slicing in half; rice should be tender and opaque.
Remove pot from heat and transfer leaves to a platter. Pour any remaining cooking liquid over the leaves. Garlic will be soft and mellow and adds to the final dish.
Serve at room temperature. If making in advance, let cool, then refrigerate, until about an hour before serving.
There is enough filling for approximately five dozen grape leaves.
- Kim O'Donnel
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