These grape leaves are equally good as an hors d’oeuvre/appetizer or as a veggie/vegan main course.
When I was in Kuwait I enjoyed the lavish meza, what we would call here “heavy hors d’oeuvres”: hummus, baba ganoush, grape leaves, tabouli and many other dips made of pomegranate, yogurt, chickpeas, liver (well not so much the liver) and served with hot pita bread that was continuously brought to our table. As such, I can appreciate the quote below from the New York Times International Cookbook by Craig Claiborne from which this recipe is adapted.
“There is an Arabic saying, 'Al akl ‘ala kadd el mahabeh' - 'The food equals the affection,' or 'The more a guest eats, the more he shows his love [though not in translation, I would substitute appreciation] for the host.' The glorious savories that comprise the beginning of a meal in the Middle East offer a guest un-limited opportunities to prove his affection. There are dishes made with sesame paste and chickpeas, eggplant and lamb, grape leaves and yogurt. If they are accompanied by sun-ripened olives, vinegar peppers, and crusty bread, so much the better. Below is a recipe for stuffed grape leaves.”
1 cup olive oil [I use less and compensate by adding more water - not as authentic]
3 large onions, chopped [I use 1-1 1/2 large sweet onions]
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon salt [I omit]
1/4 t freshly ground black pepper
1 c uncooked rice [I use brown basmati]
2 T fresh snipped dill
1/4 c finely chopped Italian parsley
2 T pignoli (pine nuts)
6 green onions, finely chopped
1 c lemon juice
3 c water [see notes below]
1 8-ounce jar grape leaves in brine
Parsley stems (optional)
1. Heat one-half cup of the oil [I use ~2 T] in a skillet and sauté the onions and garlic until tender but not browned.
2. Add the salt, pepper, and rice and cook slowly for ten minutes, stirring frequently. Add the dill, parsley, nuts, green onions, one-half cup of the lemon juice and one cup of the water. Stir to mix, cover, and simmer gently until all the liquid has been absorbed, about fifteen minutes.
3. Rinse the grape leaves under running water, separate, and place, shiny side down, on a board. If the leaves are small, put two together.
4. Place about one teaspoon [more for larger leaves] of the rice filling near the stem end of the leaves and roll up jelly-roll fashion toward the tip, tucking in the edges to make a neat roll.
* November 2014: This remaining cup of water may not be necessary. When I made this recently I found that the rice was plenty tender after absorbing 2 cups of water and 1 cup of lemon juice. In addition I had used some additional water in place of oil. Given that the normal rice to water of ratio is 1:2 and this recipe calls for 3 cups of water and 1 cup of lemon juice plus the olive oil, it is not surprising that the third cup of water (fourth of liquid) is not required.
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