Rice-stuffed Grape Leaves

Yaprakes de Parra

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • Makes about

    3 dozen pieces

Appears in

Sephardic Flavors: Jewish Cooking of the Mediterranean

Sephardic Flavors

By Joyce Goldstein

Published 2000

  • About

Stuffed grape leaves are a culinary classic throughout Greece, Turkey, and most of the Middle East. They have long been favored by Sephardic Jews, as they can be prepared ahead of time and served on the Sabbath. Rice-stuffed yaprakes are generally offered cold, while most meat-filled leaves are served warm. Méri Badi’s version is somewhat original in that it uses fennel leaves along with the usual mint and parsley. If you like, line the pan with a layer of tomato slices before you add the filled grape leaves.

Ingredients

For the Filling

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup long-grain white rice, soaked in water for 30 minutes and drained
  • cup peeled, seeded, and diced tomato
  • ¼ cup finely chopped fresh fennel leaves
  • 6 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup pine nuts, toasted (optional)
  • ¼ cup dried currants, plumped in hot water until softened and drained (optional)
  • 36 to 40 brine-packed grape leaves, well rinsed and patted dry
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • lemon wedges
  • plain yogurt

Method

To make the filling, warm the olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté until tender and translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for a few minutes longer. Add the drained rice to the sauté pan along with all of the remaining ingredients. Stir well and remove from the heat.

Lay out some of the grape leaves on a work surface, shiny side down. Snip off the stems with scissors. Place a teaspoon or so of the mixture near the stem end of a leaf. Fold the stem end over the filling, fold in the sides, and then roll up the leaf into a cylinder. Do not roll too tightly, as the rice expands during cooking. Repeat until all the filling is used.

Place the filled leaves, close to each other and seam side down, in a single layer in a wide saucepan. Pour the olive oil, lemon juice, and hot water to cover over them. Place 1 or 2 heavy plates only slightly smaller than the diameter of the pan on top of the leaves to weight them down. Make sure that the leaves are just covered with liquid, adding more hot water, if necessary. Bring the liquids to a boil over medium heat, cover, reduce the heat to low, and simmer gently until the filling is cooked, 35 to 40 minutes. Remove from the heat, uncover, and remove the plate(s) so that the stuffed leaves can cool quickly. Using a spatula, transfer the filled leaves to a platter. Cool to room temperature before serving. (They can be transferred to a container, covered, and refrigerated for up to 1 week; bring to room temperature before serving.) Accompany with lemon wedges and a bowl of yogurt.