Grape Leaves are probably one of my favorite foods. If a restaurant has them on their menu, I’ll most likely order them. Grape Leaves always taste slightly different everywhere you go. There are so many varieties, and you can put pretty much whatever you want in them. I think their versatility is one of the reasons I like these so much. They are also slightly bitter, and I really like things that are bitter for some strange reason. Some people have a sweet tooth, and I have a bitter tooth.
This dish can be served as an appetizer, or as a main dish. Grape leaves are traditionally filled with meat, but omitting it does not change the quality of this dish at all. In this particular recipe I chose lentils as the protein substitute.
Although the finished product is delightfully delicious, it is extremely time consuming to make. Like, you’ll probably have to set aside an afternoon or something, but it’s SO worth it. You will feel a great sense of accomplishment when you’re sitting down enjoying some carefully hand-crafted grape leaves, I promise.
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2-3 cloves chopped garlic
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 can ‘no salt added’ diced tomatoes
- juice of half a lemon or about 2-3 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 cup dry long grain rice
- 1/2 cup dry green lentils
- 1/4 cup chopped parsley
- 1/4 cup chopped mint
- 1/8 cup chopped dill
- salt and pepper to taste
- About 1 1/2 cups of vegetable broth
- 1 (16oz) jar of grape leaves
- Prepare rice and lentils. Use the instructions on the package or it’s usually something like 1 cup rice to 2 cups water. For the lentils make sure they have been sorted and rinsed. You do not need to soak lentils. Simmer 1/2 cup lentils in a pot with 1 1/2 cups water for about 20-30 minutes. It’s ok that the rice and lentils are left without adding any additional flavoring. There are enough herbs and other flavors in this recipes that it’s almost impossible for it to be bland.
- Heat olive oil in a large pan. Add chopped garlic and onion, saute for about two minutes, do not let these burn.
- Add tomatoes, lemon juice, salt, and pepper to the pan, continue cook for about 5 more minutes.
- Stir cooked rice and lentils into the pan.
- Remove from heat, and add the chopped parsley, mint, and dill.
- Let this mixture come to room temperature, or I usually just put it in the refrigerator for a bit to get it out of the way.
- Next step is to prepare the grape leaves. This is where it starts to get messy, how fun! Begin by draining the grape leaves, and pulling them apart. Fill a small bowl with cold water, the sorted grape leaves can be placed in there.
- Set about 6-8 grape leaves aside to layer on top of the completed leaves before baking.
- This is a good time to prepare your vegetable broth if you have not already, and preheat your oven to 400° F.
- Line a large deep baking sheet with a layer of grape leaves. I’ve also heard that you can use potato slices at the bottom of the pan, I’ve never done this, but I’m sure it will work fine. I believe it’s just a precaution so your carefully handcrafted grape leaves don’t burn onto the pan.
- With the shiny side down, place a couple tablespoons of your rice mixture in the center of the leaf. The amount of mixture will vary depending on the size of the leaf. Fold the sides of the leaf in, and then roll it up. Don’t worry you’ll get the hang of it after rolling about 40 of them. This is really an art. I warned you that the process gets tedious, but you’re in too deep to quit now. Actually, the rice mixture does taste quite fine by itself.
- Once your pan is jammed packed with stuffed grape leaves, or you have run out grape leaves layer those 6-8 grape leaves you had set aside earlier on top. Add vegetable broth. Cover your pan with foil, and bake in the oven for about 45 minutes until all of the broth is absorbed.
These can be served warm or cold. I like to drizzle a little olive oil over the top when I serve them.