Grape leaves (warag enab), can be intimidating at first, but by the end of this post you'll realize how simple and versatile they are.
When it comes to Middle Eastern grape leaves, your ideal flavor will really depend on your preference, so don't shy away from adjusting this recipe to your liking. Texture, tanginess, and serving temperature also depend on how you prefer to enjoy them, so keep that in mind when planning when to prepare your grape leaves. If you like to enjoy these warm, then you can serve them within an hour or so of making them. If you prefer them at room temperature, you'll need to wait a few hours. If you enjoy that kick of tanginess and the bursts of flavor, then you'll need to let them rest in the fridge overnight.
You can also use the same filling for cored tomatoes or kusa (Mexican zucchini) - Just add an extra jar or can of stewed tomatoes and cumin to the cooking liquid and you're golden.
This is the perfect type of dish to make with family members or friends because 4, 6, or 8 hands really do help speed up the process!
The first time I made grape leaves on my own was following a recipe from CookingwithMaha on Instagram. I learned a lot by following her process a few times and was able to come up with an adjusted recipe that suited my family. Check out her page for fabulous plating inspiration!
1 large jar of grape leaves
3 - 4 large golden potatoes
Salt and Pepper to taste
2 cups Egyptian or Calrose short grain rice
1 large bunch of flat leaf parsley (about 2 - 3 cups of finely chopped parsley)
1/2 bunch of fresh mint (about 1 cup of tightly packed leaves)
1 yellow onion, finely minced
6 whole stalks of green onions
5-6 roma tomatoes (about 2.5 cups finely diced)
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 4 lemons
3/4 cup high quality olive oil
Salt to taste
Juice of 4 - 5 lemons
3/4 cup high quality olive oil
Salt to taste
Optional: pomegranate molasses
Optional Additions for the Filling:
1/2 cup finely chopped dill
4 crushed garlic cloves
Cumin to taste
Ground beef or lamb
Mix all the filling ingredients in a large bowl: - I highly recommend using a food processor to chop the yellow onions for a super fine chop. Just pulse it a few times. - Also use the food processor to finely chop the mint, parsley and green onions. If you choose to add dill and garlic, you can also add them to the food processor with the other herbs. - It is key to taste the filling to ensure there is enough salt and lemon. You can add more lemon juice and salt to your liking. - Set aside to allow the rice to soak up some of the flavors while you complete steps 2 and 3.
Peel and slice potatoes into .5-1 inch rounds. Drizzle a generous about of olive oil to the bottom on your deep cooking pot then evenly arrange a flat layer of the sliced potatoes on the bottom. add a second layer if you still have left over slices. Season generously with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Rinse the jarred grape leaves under cold running water and then pat dry.
Stuff and roll your grape leaves: - Lay each grape leaf face side down the the protruding veins facing up. - Use scissors to trim off the excess stem. - Add some of your filling to the center, fold up the bottom of the grape leaf, then each side and tightly roll upwards tightly. Make sure you are draining the filling slightly before adding it to the grape leaves.
If you have any remaining filling, core a medium to large vine tomato and stuff it with the remaining rice filling. Reserve the liquid from the filling for step 7.
Arranged the rolled grape leaves in the cooking pot over the sliced potatoes. Make sure they are tightly packed to avoid unravelling when cooking.
Pour whatever remaining liquid remained from the rice filling over the arranged grape leaves.
Mix the lemon juice, olive oil, and salt for the cooking liquid. Taste and adjust the salt to your liking. Don't forget that the grape leaves themselves are salty, so don't overdo it. Pour the mixture over the grape leaves. You may also add pomegranate molasses at this stage if you choose to do so.
Weigh down the grape leaves using a heavy heat proof plate, the lid of a smaller pot, or a heavy flat cooking stone. The purpose is to weigh down the grape leaves so they don't unravel while cooking. You can get creative and use whatever you have on hand.
Pour hot water over the top until the top layer of grape leaves are barely covered. Cover the pot with a heavy lid to seal it in the heat.
Bring the pot to a boil over medium high heat then reduce the heat to medium, low to maintain the simmer for 60-80 minutes. Cooking time will vary depending on how large your rolled grape leaves are and how firm you like your grape leaves to be. Check their doneness by pulling out one of the grape leaves, letting it cool slightly and tasting. You want to make sure the grape leaf is tender and the rice is fully cooked.
Serve the grape leaves warm, at room temperature, or the next day after they have been refrigerated. They are significantly more delicious the next day since they will have more time to soak up all the flavors.