Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Stuffed Grape Leaves Recipe

Stuffed grape leaves, also known as "Dolmathes" are a Mediterranean and Middle Eastern delicacy made with tasty and fragrant herbs like dill, fennel, and parsley. They are usually served as an appetizer. There are many variations to the recipe, some include meat. This is a family recipe from Greece. It is meatless and contains fresh herbs. The rolls are traditionally accompanied by Feta cheese and olives.

- 1 Cup Rice

- 1 Jar ( 8 ounces) Grape Leaves

- 3 or 4 Scallions, chopped

- 4 Cups Water

- 1/4 Cup Chopped Fennel

- 1/4 Cup Chopped Dill

- 1/4 Cup Chopped Parsley

- 1/2 Cup Olive Oil, Plus 2 Tablespoons

- Juice of 1 Lemon

Place 2 tablespoons of olive oil into a skillet and saute the scallions until tender. Add the herbs, rice and 2 cups water, cover and simmer for about 10 or 15 minutes, until water is absorbed and rice is al dente. Salt the mixture to taste.

Remove the grape leaves from the jar and wash gently and remove the stems. Place the leaves in a saucepan and blanche for a few minutes until they are tender. Remove them from the saucepan and place them in a collander to drain and cool. When they have drained and cooled, begin by laying out a grape leaf with the shiny side down. Place 1 to 2 tablespoons of the rice mixture on the stem end of the leaf - bottom section of the leaf where the stem was. Begin rolling the stem end of the leaf over the rice mixture and folding. Take the 2 sides of the leaf and fold towards the middle. Now continue rolling the leaf like a cigar. Don't roll it too tightly though, because the rice will expand when it cooks further and it will break out of the roll. Repeat the process with the rest of the grape leaves and rice mixture. When the mixture is done, you will have some grape leaves left over.

Take a large saucepan and line the bottom with your remaining grape leaves. You can use imperfect/torn leaves that you could not use for rolling the mixture, to line the bottom of your saucepan. After your saucepan is lined, take your stuffed rolls and begin arranging them on the bottom of the saucepan side by side. Make sure that the seam side is down. Arrange them snugly but not too tightly together. Continue making layers of rolls in the saucepan. It's best to have 3 or 4 layers, if you have more than 4 layers, the rolls will not cook properly. When you are finished arranging your rolls, pour in the remaining water (2 cups), the remaining olive oil (1/4 cup) and the lemon juice (1 lemon). In order to keep the rolls from jumping about during the cooking process and the rice possibly breaking through the roll, take a heat-proof plate that is slightly smaller than the width of the saucepan and place it upside down on top of the rolls. This will weigh down the rolls and keep them together. Cover the saucepan with a lid and cook gently for about 30 minutes, until the rolls are tender when pierced with a fork. Remove the rolls from the saucepan, let cool and serve garnished with fresh herbs.

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