April 27, 2010

Homemade Stuffed Grape Leaves (an Attempt)

I'm not sure what it was that made me want to try making my own stuffed grape leaves, but I decided that it was a necessary endeavor. I love stuffed grape leaves, and I think it's pretty tough to find decent canned ones, so making my own made sense so that I could a) spend less money on them, and b) control the ingredients and keep them healthy.

It took me a ridiculous amount of time to find grape leaves. Whole Foods doesn't carry them, World Market doesn't carry them, not even the ambiguous "eastern" markets in Richmond carry them. I had given up and decided to stuff tomatoes, when I headed to the International Foods section of my local Kroger on a whim. Et voilĂ ! PelePonnese grape leaves! In big jars, containing about 60 grape leaves each.

I decided to use Mark Bittman's recipe for the grape leaf filling, which called for currants (I used raisins), pine nuts, onions, rice, allspice, garlic, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, fresh parsley, fresh dill, olive oil, and salt and pepper.

Being me, I added too much allspice and then forgot to add the fresh dill and parsley, which resulted in really sweet filling. Next time, I'll probably only add a sprinkle of allspice and cinnamon, and focus instead on fresh herbs and salt and pepper.

I probably also could have a) blanched the grape leaves for longer, and b) cooked the stuffed grape leaves for longer. They weren't too tough, but they were just a couple of minutes shy of tender, which makes eating them really awkward because the leaves don't tear very easily.

Don't get me wrong--for a first attempt, these stuffed grape leaves were pretty successful. But I know I can make them even better now that I've tried it once. My next batch will feature dill, parsley, mint, and celery salt. Maybe even some shredded carrot?

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