The Daring Cooks Make Stuffed Grape Leaves!


This month's Daring Cook's Challenge was straight out of the middle east. Stuffed grape leaves are a part of many cultures including the Syrians, the Turks, the Greeks, the Lebanese, the Albanians, the Israeli's, the Iranians, the Iraqis and the Armenians (just to name a few).
Our October 2010 hostess, Lori of Lori’s Lipsmacking Goodness, has challenged The Daring Cooks to stuff grape leaves. Lori chose a recipe from Aromas of Aleppo and a recipe from The New Book of Middle Eastern Food.
I found this challenge to be quite interesting! I was really worried about where the heck I was going to find grape leaves in Missouri in October!!! Turns out that my nerves were unfounded! Preserved grape leaves can be found in jars with the pickles at your grocery store! They have been brined in salt/vinegar, you only have to soak them and pat them dry to use them!
These were quite fun to make, but I was kind of disappointed by the end product. Don't get me wrong, they were good. But I was expecting to be blown away! They were just so-so. Neither my husband nor my brother were that impressed with them, either. Good! Just not absolutely amazing. I think I was also led astray by the title of this recipe. There was no sauce. If you say "Apricot Tamarind Sauce" then I want some yummy saucy-ness to ladle over the top of my little rolly-polly's. Instead, the apricots and tamarind were placed in the pot with the rolls, the pot was filled with water and then simmered. When you take the leaves out, they just look like leaves. No sauce! That kind of disappointed me. 

As a note, I could not find tamarind concentrate or paste at two different stores. I didn't have the opportunity to go to any ethnic stores, so I just made a substitute version:
Tamarind Paste Substitute:
2 tbsp dates, chopped
2 tbsp dried apricots, chopped
2 tbsp plums, chopped
2 tbsp lemon juice
Place chopped fruit in a bowl.
Pour enough boiling water over the chopped fruit to cover.
Let sit for 15 minutes. 
Pour off water and place the fruit in a food processor with lemon juice and puree into a paste.

Grape Leaves Stuffed with Ground Meat and Rice with Apricot Tamarind Sauce/ Yebra
Adapted from Aromas of Aleppo by Poopa Dweck and Michael J. Cohen. Published by Harper Collins, 2007
Yield: 6 to 8 servings
Ingredients for hashu/filling:
1 pound (455 gm) ground (minced) beef
1/3 cup (80 ml) (2 1/3 oz) (65 gm) short grain rice
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (6 gm) all spice
2 tablespoons (30 ml) vegetable oil
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (6 gm) cinnamon
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (3 gm) kosher (coarse) salt **if using regular table salt only use ½ tsp.**
¼ teaspoon (1¼ ml) (1½ gm) white pepper
1 onion, chopped
1 cup (5½ oz) (150 gm) pine nuts 
Directions:
1.Soak rice in water, enough to cover, for 30 minutes. 
2. Combine meat, rice, allspice, vegetable oil, cinnamon, salt, white pepper, and if desired, onion and pine nuts, in a large mixing bowl. Mix well.
Ingredients for assembly:
1 pound (455 gm) hashu/filling (see recipe above)
36 preserved grape leaves, stems trimmed, drained, rinsed and patted dry
1 tablespoon (15 ml) vegetable oil
6 dried apricots – or more if you desire
3 tablespoons (45 ml) tamarind concentrate
¼ cup (60 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon (15 ml) (9 gm) kosher (coarse) salt **if using regular table salt only use 1.5 tsp.**
Notes:
If using grape leaves preserved in brine, to remove salt put them in a bowl and pour boiling water over them. Make sure that the water penetrates well between the layers, and leave them soaking for about twenty minutes, then change the water a time or two using fresh cold water.
If using fresh leaves, plunge a few at a time in boiling water for a few seconds only, until they become limp, and lift them out.
Directions:
1.Place a grape leaf on a flat surface, vein side up. You can trim the little stem if you would like.
2.Place about two teaspoons (10 ml) of the filling in the center of the leaf, near the stem edge.
3.Roll the leaf end to end, starting from the stem edge. As you roll, fold the sides of the leaf in toward the center. The leaf should resemble a small cigar, about 2 to 2 1/2 inches (50 mm to 65mm) long.

4.Repeat with the remaining leaves and filling.
(You can freeze the stuffed grape leaves at this point. Just line a baking sheet with wax paper. When firmly frozen, transfer to an airtight plastic bag place back in the freezer.)
5.In a medium saucepan put in the vegetable oil and then place the filled grape leaves in the pot.
6.Place apricots in between the stuffed grape leaves. Cover and cook over low heat for 5- 8 minutes or until the grape leaves begin to sweat.
7.Using all three tablespoons, place a little of the tamarind concentrate, if using, over the rolls.
8.Combine lemon juice, salt, and water then add to pan, filling it ¾ full.
9.Weigh down the grape leaves with a heat proof plate or board to prevent them from unraveling. Cover and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 40 minutes. Alternatively, place the saucepan in an oven preheated to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4 and cook for an hour.
10.Spoon cooking liquid over the grape leaves occasionally. You will know they are done, when the grape leaves are neither soupy nor dry.
11.Tilt pan sideways over serving platter, allowing the grape leaves to tumble out. Try not to handle them individually to reduce unraveling. Alternately you can try spooning them out very gently.

10 comments:

  1. It's great that you were able to find grape leaves and use them. Your dolmades look really delicious even if they didn't meet your expectation. Great job :)

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  2. Sorry to hear about your dissapointment, I would recomend that you give this another go as it took me 3 attempts before I made something that I liked! Personally i think they were too acidic for my liking. Your banana brandy bread recipe has caught my eye!

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  3. So sorry they were not a mind blowing discovery, but they were fun to make. They look great!

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  4. Cool! There's a great Greek restaurant in downtown Des Moines that my family likes to go to, we always get dolmas with our meal.

    Too bad these weren't quite what you were hoping for, sounds like a fun adventure in the kitchen anyway!

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  5. Your sentiments mirrored mine until I tasted my friend's mum's dolmades. Great job substituting the tamarind paste! And never had sloppy Joes before ... you just made want to try cafeteria food.

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  6. Great job on this challenge. I also found that they were easier to find then I anticipated, but ... still didn't like them all that much..:))

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  7. I just love the tamarind paste substitute recipe that is good to know and your photos are nice, great work on this challenge. Cheers from Audax in Sydney Australia.

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  8. Oh man, yours look GORGEOUS! Way better than mine, haha. And I had the exact same experience with the taste! Only so-so, which is always disappointing when you put in so much work for something.

    Great pictures though! They make them look delicious at least, haha :).

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  9. Thanks for all the wonderful comments! I haven't given up on dolmades, so next time I see them in a store/restaurant, I will definitely give them a try!

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  10. Jenni, your grape leaves turned out amazing! I agree with you, though, they aren't mind blowing - although I suppose it's a matter of taste. Beautiful job!

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