When life hands you a pile of fresh grape leaves, you stuff them. (At least that’s this week’s new motto.) When one of our favorite markets suddenly had a bunch of fresh grape leaves for sale, we jumped at the chance to work with the ultimate “leafy green.”
To get some tips on working with grape leaves, we turned to our Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook pages to survey our expert cooking friends. We got quite an education. First, we took one suggestion to clean them first by soaking them in a water/baking soda mixture and then rinsing them. Then just about everyone reminded us that you have to parboil them before you can work with them. Then, we followed more sage advice about bundling them up tightly and packing them close together before cooking.
Many of the dolmas recipes we’ve seen call for rice and ground beef. Instead of ground beef, we vegan-ized it by adding a mixture of steamed lentils and very finely chopped veggies. The end result is amazing – you do not miss the beef at all.
(Hey! Look at this! It’s yet another blog post where we’re just going to give you a recipe instead of dragging you through pages of stories!)
Vegan Dolmas (Stuffed Grape Leaves) Recipe
Fresh grape leaves stuffed with rice and veggies - you'll never miss the meat!
- 25-30 fresh grape leaves
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (divided)
- 1/3 cup finely chopped fresh zucchini
- 1/3 cup finely chopped fresh mushrooms
- 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh carrots
- 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh onion
- 1 cup long grain white rice
- 8 oz. steamed lentils
- 1/3 cup lemon juice (divided)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tsp fresh thyme
Rinse the grape leaves in a colander, then place the leaves in a bowl filled with cold water and baking soda. Swish the leaves around for a few minutes, then rinse. Place the leaves in a medium pot filled with boiling water and par-boil the leaves for 2 to 3 minutes; then carefully remove with a slotted spoon. Place the leaves on a towel or paper towel and pat dry. Remove any stems that are sticking out (they should be easy to pluck away). Set aside.
Heat two tablespoons of the olive oil in a medium skillet and saute the vegetables for 4 to 5 minutes or until just tender. Meanwhile, put the rice in a large bowl and rinse it with cold water, draining, and repeating until the water runs clear. To the drained rice, add the sauteed vegetables, lentils, 2/3 of the lemon juice, salt, pepper, and thyme, and mix.
Lay out a single grape leaf on a board. Place one heaping tablespoon of filling in the middle of the leaf. Fold each side of the leaf over the filling. Then raise the base of the leave and roll upward, tightly encasing the filling. You should have a small rolled grape leaf that looks like a burrito. Repeat, leaving 5 to 10 grape leaves unrolled.
Place a layer of unrolled grape leaves at the bottom of a heavy pan. Line up the stuffed grape leaves at the bottom of the pan, placing them close together without gaps, stacking if necessary. Top with the remaining unrolled grape leaves. Cover with cold water, remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil, and remaining lemon juice. Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer and cook for 35-40 minutes, or until rice is tender. Serve cold or warm.
Ever rolled grape leaves before? It’s pretty easy – just like a burrito!
Once you get the hang of it, it goes quickly. But don’t get so caught up in it that you forget to save some extra grape leaves for the pot! Having a few on the bottom and top layers helps avoid burning the grape leaves or causing them to get stuck to the pot.
We enjoy these best when they’re warm or at room temperature. They’re also tasty with lots of lemon juice, so make sure to offer a few lemon wedges on the side.
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