Monday, September 20, 2010

Stuffed Grape Leaves

I don't even know when I discovered stuffed grape leaves but it has been a love affair ever since. From sampling greek salads up and down the Tri-State area diner belt to stalking a certain co-worker who knows about my addiction, I feel like I have tasted every type of grape leaf from the spicy to tasteless, meaty or vegetarian, grainy or soft.... I can't help but eat them all. I finally was gifted a whole bag of grape leaves from the coworker so I might attempt my own!

I decided to put my own spin on things and instead of traditional rice (or even brown rice) I decided to go with quinoa. I have used this grain many times before especially when cooking for vegetarians but it works great with meat as well and combines beautifully in this recipe that I adapted from a few ideas out there on the web. Initially when I started searching I was a bit overwhelmed but I found this post from White on Rice Couple that linked to a great Greek Food blog site with amazing step by step instructions. I was a little concerned about using the quinoa and if the different cooking time would affect the dish but I decided to go for it and it worked out fabulously!

Quinoa Stuffed Grape Leaves
2 lbs lean ground beef  (make your own or pre-ground) - or beef and lamb mix
2 c dry quinoa (rinsed)
1/2 onion - finely diced
1/2 pepper - finely dined
4 tbsp finely diced fresh mint
2 tbsp finely diced fresh dill
2 cloves garlic- finely minced
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp all spice
1/2 tsp tumeric
salt & pepper
1 tbsp olive oil

50-75 grape leaves - stems cut out and blanched

2 c chicken stock
1 lemon - sliced
handfull of dill
handfull of mint

1) Begin by heating the oil in a lage wok pan, add the garlic to flavor the oil and then remove so it doesn't burn
2) Add the quinoa and let toast (similar to cooking risotto) - stir so all pieces are evenly toasted
3) Remove the quinoa and add the garlic, peppers and onions to pan
4) Once softened, add the meat and dry spices - mix it to crumble it as it browns
5) Once meat is cooked, drain excess fat and place in a large bowl
6) Stir in quinoa and fresh herbs and allow to cool until you can handle
7) To assemble grape leave - place vein side up on a dish, add 1 tsp of filling at about 1/2 " from base of leave- fold over to cover filling and then fold sides in (like a burrito) then fold over 2-3 more times to make a roll - smooth with wet finger so it is secure
8) Line the bottom of a baking dish (I used a corning ware casserole dish) with any ripped or broken leaves then arrange rolled grape leaves - do not pack them too tight but they should be just barely touching - you can have more than one layer (I had 3 layers in total)
9) Add chicken stock & lemon juice till it is just almost covering grape leaves, cover will slices of lemon and herbs - cover with foil and bake at 350F for 1 hr (or until heated throughout)
10) Serve hot or cold with a plain yogurt, lemon and greek seasoning dipping sauce