About halfway through living in Europe last year, I started a list in one of my mini Moleskine notebooks: Things to Learn to Cook. After we went on our August Euro-tour, that list grew exponentially. In addition to mushy peas and sticky toffee pudding, we added quite a lot of Greek food to that list, including stuffed grape leaves.
Stuffed grape leaves are my favorite Greek food. Period. I think it's because the grape leaves are typically brined, and then the entire thing also has a lemon-y flavor. I do love my pickled/acidic foods. But they're expensive when you can find them at all, and I'm so not okay with waiting once every year for the Greek festival here in town, or once every 31 years to go to Greece. So I decided we were going to learn to make these.
Lesson learned? Greek people like finicky but delicious food. Just like my mom's baklava, these were so NOT hard to make...just methodical, repetitive, and time-consuming. By the end, I got pretty confident and good at rolling the leaves, so perhaps next time it'll go faster, but I wouldn't suggest making these if you're in a hurry.
However. For the love, please do make them if you're into Greek food. They turned out so much better than I was expecting them to. We think they could use more spices next time (they seemed a little bland to us), but the lamb was divine, and the grape leaves had the perfect bite to them. These would be wildly impressive and easy to make for a party: simply make the filling ahead of time, and then just roll them up and simmer the day of.
Regardless of why you make them, I just suggest that you do make them. However, as for the views of Santorini, you're on your own.
E & B
stuffed grape leaves
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup green onion, chopped
1 pound lean ground lamb or beef (we used lamb)
1/2 cup raw rice
2 tablespoons pine nuts
1 teaspoon dried dill weed (we substituted fresh, since we had it)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 16-ounce jar grape leaves, drained
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
Heat oil in a large skillet.
Saute onion and green onion for about five minutes, or until golden.
Add lamb and cook, stirring, until lamb is no longer pink.
Add rice, nuts, dill, salt, pepper, and 3/4 cup of water.
Simmer, covered, for 10 minutes or until water is absorbed.
Remove from heat and place into bowl to cool for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, separate grape leaves.
Rinse well in cold water to wash away brine and dry well on paper towels.
Place leaves, shiny side down, on a flat surface.
Put 1 tablespoon or so of lamb mixture into the center of each leaf.
Use this diagram to help you learn how to roll them up.
Fill skillet with rolled-up leaves. Two layers is fine.
Pour lemon juice, 2 tablespoons olive oil, and 1 cup cold water over the leaves.
Put a heavy heat-safe plate on top of them to weigh them down and prevent leaves from unrolling.
Bring to boiling, then simmer until liquid is absorbed, about 30 minutes.
You can eat them hot or serve them chilled, but I personally prefer them hot.
Could be better, could be worse. We estimated this made 6 servings, each at 402 calories.