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