Recipe: Rolled Grape Leaves

by Mozzified Contributor Shaina Shealy

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Here’s a recipe for waraqa dawali – the Palestinian version of dolmas. Najla, head of Cross Stitch for Palestine, makes hundreds at a time at her home in Bethlehem. Usually, it takes her 3 hours at a time to prepare 350-400 pieces. I’m used to eating grape leaves that are stuffed thick with one inch or more of rice. Najla’s leaves are much tastier – she rolls them thin like pencils so that they’re mostly leaf with only a hint of gooey rice in the middle.

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I asked Najla to line up the spices so I could take a picture for memory. She laughed and said that it doesn’t really matter what spices I use. Whatever she has in the house, she said, is what she throws into the bowl. I told her that I cook the exact same way, but that I had to at least pretend to have exact recipes so I could post them for people to recreate on their own.

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The important spices and herbs include mint, parsley, nutmeg and garlic. GARLIC. A lot of it. When I made these at home, I added a half cup of black lentils into the rice mixture to pack an extra punch of protein, iron and fiber. This dish pleases vegans, vegetarians and carnivores alike.

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*If you can’t pick em fresh like Najla does, you can buy canned or frozen grape leaves from a Middle Eastern specialty store.

Najla’s Vegetarian Stuffed Grape Leaves

Prep time: 1 ½ hours

Makes 40 – 50 stuffed grape leaves

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup white rice, short grain
  • 1/2 cup black lentils, uncooked
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed or shredded
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 Large tomato, diced
  • 1 tbs dried mint, crushed
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 handful (1/2 cup) fresh mint, chopped finely
  • 1 handful (1/2 cup) fresh parsely, chopped finely
  • pinch of nutmeg (fresh grated is best)
  • pinch of all-spice and/or 7-spice mix (optional)
  • 1 tsp veg boullion (optional)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • black pepper to taste
  • 40 -50 grape leaves, destemmed

Directions:

Rinse one cup of rice and place in large mixing bowl. Add lentils, oil, tomato, onion, garlic, herbs and spices. Mix together.

Lay grape leaves smooth side down. Sprinkle a pinch (really, a teeny amount! See picture) of rice in the bottom of each leaf. Roll the leaves from bottom up keeping the edges inside. Imagine you’re rolling a burrito for a Barbie doll. As you roll the leaves, try to keep the edges right. This may take practice.

Line the bottom of a small pot with 4 -5 unrolled, flat grape leaves. Stack the rolled grape leaves on top of one another in the pot. Add one tsp olive oil. When full, cover the rolled leaves with an additional 4 – 5 flat leaves. Add water until leaves are submerged at least one inch.

Cover with lid, bring to boil and reduce to simmer for 45 minutes – 1 hour. Serve with tahini, labne or greek yogurt!


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Shaina Shealy is a graduate student at UC Berkeley’s School of Journalism, where she focuses in New Media. Follow her on twitter @shainashealy.