Posted by: A Part of the Solution | December 2, 2010

Stuffed Grape Leaves

I love this recipe template for stuffed grape leaves. Once you get the hang of it, it’s easy to vary. And all the elements of it can be made ahead, way ahead. Though this is time consuming overall, it’s not demanding of attention when you’re busy entertaining or wishing to be entertained. And yes, they’re delicious. Surprisingly so.

When I still labored as a vegan chef, I got a little bored (more than a little really) with standard grape leaves. They’re yummy, but if the recipe never varies, they get banal. People may avoid your grape leaves at first, fearful they’ll be like those bland, slippery, salty things that come from cans. Once they see anyone take a bite, and the smile spread over their face, the rush will be on.

Stuffed Grape Leaves

2 cups cooked, cooled rice–and it should be just undercooked, like leave off the last 10 minutes steaming and drain it thoroughly.

5 TBSP olive oil, divided 1 and 4

1 small onion, chopped fine

1 cup finely chopped celery

3/4 cup lightly toasted sunflower seeds, or pine nuts

1/2 cup minced flat leaf parsley

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1 tsp lemon zest

salt and black pepper to taste

75 Grape leaves, rinsed and drained (I drape them over the edge of the colander in layers one by one, that way they’re easy to use)

2 1/4 cups vegetable stock

1 TBSP tomato paste

juice of one lemon

1 TBSP tamari or soy sauce

In a heavy bottomed pan, heat one tablespoon of the oil. Sauté the onion and celery until the onion is translucent and the celery is barely crisp. Stir this carefully into the rice with the seasonings. Don’t over salt the filling: the grape leaves were packed in brine and will lend some salt to the dolmades as they cook.

Take a leaf and turn it so the stem side is up and the stem closest to you. Put a large tablespoonful of filling (less than you might think, but you’ll get the feel for the right amount quickly) in the center of the leaf, an inch from the bottom edge. Fold the sides of the leaf in (as though for a burrito), bring the bottom up after pinching off the last 1/2″ of stem, and roll right up. Place the dolmade on a rimmed baking sheet, seam side down. Keep rolling until you run out of filling and/or grape leaves. Place each dolmade close to the next, without squeezing them (they’ll expand a little in their final cooking).

When you’re about halfway through the rolling, preheat the oven to 350°. After you’ve finished rolling, stir together the braising liquids: the remaining oil, the lemon juice, stock, tamari and tomato paste. Pour this gently over the dolmades and cover the pan with another like it inverted and set on top. Or use heavy aluminum foil slightly tented over the dolmades. Bake for 50 minutes to an hour. The braising liquid should be nearly all absorbed.

Let these cool covered, then store them in an airtight container in the fridge. They’ll still be good nine days later. After that, they get kind of mushy.

Variations: With a Base of Rice

à la Dordogne: chopped roasted brussels sprouts, dried cherries soaked in a little brandy or orange juice, 1 tsp orange zest, 2 shallots sautéed,  couple ounces of toasted, chopped hazelnuts. Add fresh thyme to the parsley. Use 3 TBSP red wine vinegar for the lemon juice, and mushroom stock instead of vegetable stock. If you have any on hand, use hazelnut or walnut oil instead of olive oil.

Turkish: chopped dried apricots with chopped toasted pistachios, sautéed red onion with 1/2 tsp coriander, allspice, cinnamon and ginger–and the celery. Omit the lemon zest, but add a little fresh, grated ginger if you like. Use mint instead of parsley. This is a taste bomb!



  1. Yay!!!! I love stuffed grape leaves! And you’re killer at them.

    • Thank you, thank you very much! It’s good to be good at something–and in my case, stuffed grape leaves!

  2. […] like that chip-and-dip platter. Have some of it easily mobile, in mess-free pieces–like stuffed grape leaves, tartlets (sweet or savory),  or teeny-weeny gazpachos. With three savory appetizers and a couple […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: