Some dear friends taught me how to make stuffed grape leaves about a year ago and they are unlike anything else I have tried before. The process takes a little patience just like any food that has a filling, but it is quite easy to get the hang of.
I have tried stuffed grape leaves a few ways now, but I wanted to see if I could replicate the savory version as a vegan recipe and I was really pleased with how these turned out. The carrots have a rich sweetness they bring while the onions and mushrooms add some depth and umami notes. The tomato paste and olive oil help to bind everything together.
I had to try a few stores to find the grape leaves, but I actually ultimately found them at the Walmart Neighborhood Market down the street. You should be able to check the availability of grape leaves at your local grocery store, they are most often on the bottom shelf in the international foods aisle. If you cannot find them at your grocery store try a local Middle Eastern market or online.
Make sure you don't add the salt and lemon juice to the rice mixture, they are meant to be added to the pot with the liquid. This really helps to add this bright pop of flavor to the grape leaves.
You want to pack your stuffed grape leaves quite tightly in the pan, this will help them to keep from unraveling while they cook in the simmering water. If you find you have a few that don't hold together it's perfectly fine, it won't ruin anything. The plate also helps with this to keep any of them from popping up in the pot.
When they are done you should actually be able to unmold them from the pan onto a plate almost like a savory cake! Let them cool down plenty, they will be really hot at first.
These keep fine in the fridge for a few days, just reheat them in the microwave for about a minute and you are good!
Makes about 6 servings
Jar of grape leaves
1 cup of parboiled rice
1/4 cup of olive oil
8oz cremini mushrooms
1 yellow onion
4 cloves of garlic
2 Tbsp tomato paste
2 tsp paprika (half this if you don't like a little spice)
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
6 Tbsp lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp salt
Finely mince the mushrooms, grate the carrots, finely dice the onions, and mince the garlic. I used a food processor to make these steps really quick.
In a large bowl combine the rice, olive oil, mushrooms, onions, carrots, garlic, tomato paste, paprika, black pepper, and garlic & onion powder until everything is well incorporated.
Take a grape leaf out of the jar and lay it out in front of you. You will want the smooth side facing down with the textured side up towards you. I like to put the base of the leave closest to me and the point facing away. Take about 1 1/2 to 2 Tbsp of the filling and place it in the center of the leave. Shape it into a small log and then fold the bottom up over the filling. Next fold in each of the sides and then roll it up towards the tip of the leaf until everything is tightly wrapped. Set it aside with the seam down so that it won't unravel. Refer to the photos to see examples of the process.
When all of the filling is used up take the filled grape leaves and place them into a pot. If you have a pot that will accommodate them you could place them in vertically, this will help them keep their shape and cook evenly. Otherwise, place a few extra grape leaves on the bottom of the pot and lay them in horizontally, alternating directions with each layer.
To the pot with the stuffed grape leaves add in the lemon juice and salt. If you have a plate that can fit down inside your pot, place it in to cover the grape leaves and keep them from floating around. Pour water in until the grape leaves are just covered.
Bring the pot to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Simmer the grape leaves for 40 minutes.
When they are done allow to cool for a few minutes. Remove the small plate and cover the pot with a large plate, flip over and remove the pot to release all of the stuffed grape leaves. Let them cool for about 10 minutes and enjoy!