A Little Bit Greek, A Little Bit Turkish, More Than A Little Bit Delicious

Before making stuffed grape leaves, per usual, we scanned a number of recipes, gleaned info and then prepared them according to our own preferences. First, we needed to decide whether we wanted the super tangy, salty flavors of Greek grape leaves or the sweeter, denser experience of Turkish stuffed leaves. Since we have a hard time making up our minds at Cafe Drake HRV, we sorta accomplished both. Above, ingredients ready for mixing: short grain brown rice, olive oil, salt, black pepper, dill, sunflower seeds and dried cranberries.

Rinsing and draining jarred grape leaves. If you have fresh, by all means use them but they'll need to be blanched in boiling water before stuffing and rolling.

Only one or two teaspoons  - maximum - per leaf. Over-stuffing will only bring tears and split leaves.

Rolled leaves packed tight in a single layer in a wide skillet.

The rolled leaves are covered with water, lemon juice and olive oil and then steamed/simmered. The whole allspice berries are a Cafe Drake HRV addition.

The grape leaves may be served warm or cold. They make Perfect Picnic Food.

Dinner of Stuffed Grape Leaves, Greek Potatoes, Garden Salad and Roasted Red Pepper Sauce.
To make about 24 stuffed grape leaves, rinse and drain a jar of grape leaves. You'll have lots of leaves left over so either double the recipe or use in another recipe. For example, try wrapping a leaf around a small piece of soft goat cheese and allow to marinate for 3 or 4 days refrigerated. Or wrap a leaf around fresh fish or slabs of tofu and grill for a mysterious, musky and delicious change of pace (be sure to oil well before slapping on the grill).

So while the grape leaves are draining, mix together in a large bowl 2 cups of cooked short grain brown rice, 1/4 cup minced fresh dill leaves, a couple of large shakes of onion powder, 2-3 T. olive oil, 1/3 cup dried cranberries, 1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds and plenty of salt to taste. Season with black pepper if you like. With your clean hands, mix and mash the ingredients together, not to a mush, but so they sort of all adhere together.

Spread a grape leaf on a clean surface, shiny side facing down, and put in the middle lower section of the leaf 1-2 t. of the rice mixture. Fold in the sides and roll up just like a burrito. When done, squeeze the rolled and stuffed leaf gently, making sure it's tight and not unraveling. Repeat until all of the rice has been used.

Snugly fit the grape leaves into a wide, deep skillet or saucepan. Cover with 3/4 cup water or however much it takes to cover completely all the leaves by 1/4". Pour in 2-4 T. lemon juice and drizzle with more olive oil, not a lot, maybe 1-2 tablespoons. Throw in a few whole allspice berries, around 8-10. Bring to a low boil, cover and simmer gently for around 40 minutes. Almost all of the liquid should be absorbed. Cool covered for 10 minutes then carefully remove to a platter or cool completely and refrigerate. The stuffed grape leaves will stay fresh in the fridge for about 3 or 4 days.


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