LEMONY STUFFED GRAPE LEAVES
All Natural Diabetes Cookbook
by Jackie Newgent
Lebanese cuisine is a traditionally fresh, flavorful, and natural cuisine that celebrates the goodness of life. Lebanese meals typically start with a mezze, which might include stuffed grape leaves (with or without meat), tabbouleh and other salads, hummus, kibbeh (a lamb dish), pita bread, and more. All together, these appetizers can make a balanced and beautiful meal.
Serves 10, serving size: 2 large or 3 medium stuffed leaves
• 1¼ cups brown basmati rice
• 3 large shallots, minced (1/2 cup)
• 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh dill
• 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh mint
• 1½ tsp sea salt
• 3/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
• 1/4 cup water
• 3 medium lemons
• 30 medium or 20 large fresh grape leaves*, lightly blanched, or 1 (15-oz) jar grape leaves in vinegar brine, soaked in fresh water, rinsed well, and drained
• 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the rice, shallots, dill, mint, salt, and pepper. Add the water and stir to combine. Squeeze the juice from 1 1/2 lemons (to yield 5 Tbsp juice) into a small bowl and set aside. Cut the remaining lemons into small wedges.
2. Lay the grape leaves individually, dull side up, onto plain paper towels. If any leaves have stems attached, snip with thumbnail or kitchen shears. Place 1 heaping spoonful of the rice mixture in the center of each leaf. Roll each leaf tightly by folding the bottom end of each leaf over the filling, folding the edges over the filling, then rolling toward the leaf point, until they look like mini cigars.
3. In a large, heavy-duty saucepan, arrange the stuffed leaves in layers. (If you don't have a heavy-duty pan, line the pan's bottom with several large, unstuffed grape leaves before arranging the stuffed leaves on top.) Pour water (about 3 cups) over the rolls until just covered. Pour the lemon juice and oil evenly over all.
4. Place a heavy, heatproof plate or smaller pan lid directly onto the grape leaves to keep them from opening up during cooking. Place over high heat and bring to a boil. Cover the saucepan with a lid, reduce heat to low, and cook for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until the rice is tender. Remove from heat and keep covered for 15 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature with lemon wedges. They are delicious with plain Greek yogurt.
Exchanges: 1 starch, 1 vegetable, 1/2 fat; 110 calories, 21 calories from fat, 2 g total fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 350 mg sodium, 21 g total carbohydrate, 2 g dietary fiber, 1 g sugars, 3 g protein.
To store grape leaves, stack 30 fresh leaves (make sure they're dry) and wrap the stack in plain paper towels. Then wrap in foil and place in a sealed plastic freezer bag. They'll keep frozen for months. When ready to use, remove from freezer and allow leaves to completely thaw. Rinse well with warm water to clean and lightly blanch the grape leaves.
Depending on where you live, fresh grape leaves are typically best picked from vines in the spring. (I'm half Lebanese, and grew up with grape vines in my backyard-for the leaves, not the grapes!) They'll likely be too tough by July 4. Select young whole leaves from wild or domesticated vines. Wild leaves are often more delicate and will result in a nicer finished dish.
Wrap vegetables, meat, fish, or cheese with fresh grape leaves, then grill. Fresh leaves make a beautiful natural garnish for fruit and cheese platters, too.