Long story short – it was one of the most delicious evenings of my life. Aunt Paula is my Syrian cooking muse and I will always remember these amazing culinary adventures that explore our heritage. In the coming weeks, I plan to feature several of Aunt Paula’s recipes. Of course these are all my interpretation of her recipes because real cooks do not measure or weigh or write down recipes. We use a pinch of that, a pinch of this.
And without fail, no matter how perfect and delicious the food turns out, Aunt Paula will never eat a single item during the meal. Nothing will ever taste right and nothing is ever as good as it should be.
Oddly enough, when I prepare these dishes they never taste as good as Aunt Paula’s and I’m rarely that hungry by the time dinner is ready. I’m hoping that means it came out perfectly.
Very popular in several Mediterranean countries as well as a family favorite, these Lebanese stuffed grape leaves are filled with meat, rice and lemon juice.
- 1 jar grape leaves 2 pound jar
- 1 pound ground sirloin or lamb
- 1/2 cup long grain enriched white rice par-boiled such as Uncle Ben's
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- 2 lemons juiced
- 2 stalks celery cut into 3 - optional
- 5 leaves raw cabbage optional
Line a large pot with celery ribs and loose cabbage leaves.
Remove any hard stems from grape leaves and place on a plate.
In a large bowl, combine ground meat, rice, the juice of 1 lemon, salt and pepper.
One grape leaf at a time, place the leaf flat on a plate and add 1 tablespoon of meat and rice mixture near stem.
Form meat into long cigar shape then roll the grape leave starting at the stem all the way to the top. No need to fold in sides but you can if you wish.
Line rolls in pot, alternating direction with each layer, until the pot is filled ¾ of the way or you’ve used all your leaves.
Cover grapes leaves with a small plate turned upside down to keep them from moving and to weigh it down.
Add juice of second lemon and then cover with water until grape leaves are covered.
Cover pot with lid and bring to a boil on high. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes before serving with plain yogurt or cucumber laban if you wish.
Makes 45 Grape Leaves