Tender fresh grape leaves stuffed with a flavorful vegetarian filling.
I will never forget the first time I tried stuff grape leaves. I cannot remember exactly how old I was but I was a small child. It was a new taste for me. The leave reminded me of an undercooked collard green but I thought the filling was quite tasty.
Flash forward a couple of decades and I would say I’ve eaten my fair share of stuffed grape leaves in many different countries, prepared a myriad of different ways. Although they do require some time to actually roll and stuff the leaves, they are well worth the effort. I love that they can be eaten hot, cold or at room temperature so there’s no need to fuss with this aspect.
Traditionally, they are prepared with meat, but I don’t miss the meat when I prepare them without it. I created this recipe because I did not have meat on hand and I used bulgur instead of rice simply because I really love bulgur.
I think that everyone that has ever eaten a stuffed grape leaves, knows them immediately when they see them. And if they are like me, then seeing them will surely bring a smile to their face.
Here’s the recipe:
Fresh Stuffed Grape Leaves (Taze Yaprak Sarmasi) – Vegetarian Version
- 20-30 fresh grape leaves
- 1/2 c dry fine bulgur
- 1 small onion (finely diced; about 1 cup diced)
- 4 garlic cloves (minced)
- 1/4 c chopped fresh parsley
- 1 lemon (sliced)
- 2 TBSP tomato paste
- 2 TBSP olive oil
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp dried cumin
- 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
- salt & pepper (to taste)
To blanche the grape leaves: Clean the grape leaves thoroughly. Then prepare a large pot of boiling water. Working in batches, blanche the grape leaves for about 30-60 seconds. Then remove from the water and place into an ice water bath to stop the cooking process. Drain the grape leaves and set aside.
To prepare the filling: Prepare the bulgur by placing it in a bowl and adding one cup of boiling water. Stir and then cover with plastic wrap or a plate to allow it to steam for 10 minutes.
Saute the onions and garlic in the olive oil until tender. Then add the tomato paste and stir well, adding a little water as needed.
Then mix the bulgur and the tomato paste mixture in a large bowl. Season with the oregano, cumin, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Stir in the fresh parsley just until it is incorporated.
In a large stock pot, line the bottom with about 4-5 grape leaves (or enough to cover the bottom of the pan).
To roll the grape leaves: One by one, place them on a flat surface. Starting at the wide bottom part of the grape leaf, place about half a tablespoon of the filling on the leaf and spread out into a thin line. Fold in the sides of the leaf and gently roll it until it is completely rolled. Continue until all of the grape leaves are rolled.
Place each of the stuffed grape leaves seam side down in the pot, side by side, very close together. Top with the lemon slices and enough water to fill the pot half way up (but do not submerge the grape leaves. Place a heavy ceramic plate of bowl on top of the grape leaves and cover with a lid. Allow the grape leaves to cook for about 45 minutes, adding more water as needed.
Once cooked, gently remove from the pot.
Serve and Enjoy with a lemon slice.
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Photo Credit: EE Winkler