Rolled Grape Leaves

Stuffed Rolled Grape Leaves

Stuffed Rolled Grape Leaves

Rolled Grape Leaves

I have always loved rolled grape leaves!  Probably one of my most favorite dishes in the Lebanese category.  However, since we try to eat relatively low carb…  I haven’t made them in quite a while because of the rice.  Recently, I bought some fresh ground lamb and was going to make grape leaves per request of my boys and they have no problem with the rice….  Well, I ran out of time and had to put the lamb in the freezer.  Just the other day, I was trying to think of something to cook for dinner without having to go to the grocery store and remembered the lamb!!!  The jar of grape leaves was still in my pantry along with the cans of whole tomatoes, onions, lemons, garlic… (all of which I try to keep on hand at all ((most)) of the time).  Grape leaves were still sounding good to me but didn’t want the rice.  Hmmm…  there has to be something I can do…  Pine nuts!!!!!  Yes!!!  They are used in a lot of middle Eastern cooking and they would add a little contrast to the lamb along with another texture…  And besides, I have made stuffed cabbage without rice!  Not sure why this idea didn’t occur to me sooner but away I went and the dish turned out great!  So here is my recipe for “low carb” stuffed grape leaves.

Ingredients List and Cooking Instructions:

1 – 16 ounce jar Grape Leaves.  Rinsed, stemmed, and patted dry with paper towels.  I used Orlando brand. As you are sorting through the leaves, set aside any of the ones that are torn or have wholes in them.  You are going to put a single layer of leaves on the bottom of your pot and the “bad” leaves are good for this purpose.

1 – Large yellow onion, chopped fine

1 – whole pod of garlic, chopped fine

Olive oil

Saute’ the onion and garlic in the olive oil until soft and somewhat golden.  Set aside until cool and ready to use.

1/2 cup (or more) pine nuts

toast the pine nuts in a medium skillet (no oil needed).  Just stir them around until the are all toasty looking and smelling good.  Pour them out onto a plate until cool and ready to use. 

3 – lbs. fresh ground lamb

2 – fresh eggs, slightly beaten

1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley (measured after it is chopped)

2 – Tbs ground cumin

1 – Tbs garlic powder

1 – Tbs onion powder

1 – Tbs Kosher salt

1 – Tbs chopped fresh mint ( the mint is measured after it is chopped)

1 – tsp coarse ground black pepper

1 – tsp ground allspice

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Sauce:

2 – 28 ounce cans of whole, peeled tomatoes blended with the emulsion blender.  I blend the tomatoes and the juices in the can. 

Juice of a lemon

2 – Tbs minced garlic.  Here, I used the kind in the jar. 

1 – tsp. kosher salt

1 – tsp coarse ground black pepper

Stir all of the sauce ingredients in a bowl.  No cooking necessary.  Set aside until ready to use.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the lamb and all of the ingredients listed under the lamb.  Add the cooled onions and garlic along with the cooled pine nuts.  Using your hands, mix all of the ingredients until very well blended.  Now, for the good part.  Go ahead and get a large pot out that has a good fitting lid before you start rolling the grape leaves.  Have it sitting next to you so you can put the rolled grape leaves directly in the pot as you stuff them. Layer the single layer of leaves on the bottom of the pot as I told you above.  Alright…  get a grape leaf and lay it out flat, back side of the leaf facing up.  Grab a hefty pinch of the meat mixture ( I’d say a good tablespoon or more) and place it at the stem end of the leaf.  Do NOT “pack” the meat but simply press the meat into a “cigar” about the length of you index finger.  Packing the meat will cause it to be dry once it is cooked.  Once the meat is shaped, it is time to roll it up.  I use a “tortilla” method and it keeps the meat secure.  First, fold the bottom of the leaf over the meat.  Next, fold both sides of the leaf over the meat then continue to roll it forward until all of the leaf is wrapped around the meat.  Starting in the center of the pot, create a single line of stuffed grape leaves all the way across the pot.  Continue to line them up on each side until you have a singe layer that covers the bottom of the pot.  At this point, ladle some of the sauce on top of the grape leaves.  Continue with another layer and repeating with the sauce on top.  I think I ended up with three layers.  IF…..  there are any grape leaves left lay them on top of the stuffed grape leaves.  I actually did not have any left so it’s okay if you don’t.   AND, I even had just a small amount of meat mixture left that I formed into meatballs and pan seared them for us to eat as an appetizer while our grape leaves were cooking!!!  Oh, but we are making grape leaves not meatballs, ha!  So, once the grape leaves are all set and sauce is on them,  place the pot on the stove top, bring them to a slow boil over medium high heat.  Once the pot starts to boil, put the lid on it, reduce the heat to medium/low and cook for 45 minutes to an hour.  Mmmmmm good!!!!!  The pine nuts give the perfect texture and we never missed the rice!!!

Serve and enjoy!!!

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