Stuffed Grape Leaves

This Middle Eastern classic is my mother’s specialty.  These barely last through dinner when she makes them…

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup basmati rice
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 jar of grape leaves (or freshly picked grape leaves) – approximately 100-150 leaves
  • 1 tomato, sliced
  • Lamb chops (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

HOW TO MAKE IT

  • First, prepare the pot
    • Place your slices of tomatoes along the bottom of a medium pot – this will prevent the grape leaves from burning while cooking
    • If you want to use lamb chops, brown them 1-2 tbsp of butter first and then place them on the bottom of the pot, too, in between tomato slices
  • Soak the rice in very hot water for 1/2 hour – then strain
  • Mix the rice with the raw ground beef with your hands – season with salt and pepper
  • Boil the grape leaves (jarred or fresh) in water for about 2 minutes – you want them to be tender, but not too tender
  • Place the leaves in the strainer and cut off the stems – if the leaf is too big, cut it in half (ideally, the leaf should be about 3.5 in. wide)
  • Lay out a grape leaf and and place a heaping tbsp of rice and meat in the center of the leaf – form it into the shape of a your index finger up to your knuckle (same size, too)
  • Fold the sides over onto the rice and meat and roll it up like a small cigar
  • As you roll the leaves, line them up in the large pot that you have already prepared
  • Tightly arrange the stuffed grape leaves as you roll them – this can take a bit of time!
  • Place a small dish on top of the leaves to add some pressure
  • Dissolve 1 tbsp of salt in 2 cups of water (for every cup of rice you need 2 cups of water) then pour the water into the pot
  • Cook it on high heat until it starts to boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low heat for approximately 1 hour
  • Check to see if the leaves are cooked – once they’re cooked, pour in 3 oz. of fresh lemon juice
  • If the rice is not quite cooked, add in more water a little bit at a time (2-3 oz. at a time)
  • Once the rice is cooked, turn off the heat and let the pot settle while covered for at least 15 minutes
  • When you’re ready to serve, put a large round platter face down on the pot and tip the pot over
  • Serve with fresh pita bread and plain yogurt
   

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