Stuffed Vine Leaves

MayaOryanIMG_8508-RPhotography Serge Oryan

Stuffed vine leaves are as easy as a salad to make! It has to be easy since this recipe was among the first ones I learned. In fact you combine all the ingredients same as you do for a salad, drizzle the olive oil and the lemon juice and start the stuffing. The rolling is not that complicated!

An authentic traditional recipe, prepared just like my mom and her mom before her. Stuffed vine leaves are really moreish, these juicy little bites, melting soft in the mouth are best consumed as an appetizer or as a main dish.This dish is one of the essential plates in Lebanese mezze. Because it’s vegetarian, it makes it a popular staple during the Lent period.

Full with nutritious ingredients, this meal is a heart-healthy choice for almost anyone. According to the nutrition data, Grape leaves are low in Saturated Fat, and very low in Cholesterol and Sodium. They are also a good source of Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Niacin and Iron, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Riboflavin, Vitamin B6 and Folate. They can provide your body with beneficial nutrients, from Calcium, Magnesium, Copper, Manganese to omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants. What’s not to like about that!

 One last note, if using canned grape leaves, rinse the leaves gently with warm water and use, while fresh grape leaves have to be soaked in hot water for 10-15 minutes before using.

Ingredients

  • 250g grape vine leaves
  • 1½ cup uncooked short grain rice
  • 4 cups parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 cup white onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cups tomatoes, diced
  • 1 cup chickpeas, canned or cooked
  • 2/3 cup olive oil
  • 2/3 cup lemon juice
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sweet pepper
  • 1-2 Potatoes, sliced in circles
  • Water
  • 2-3 tomatoes slices in circles

Preparation

To prepare the stuffing, combine uncooked rice, parsley, mint, onions, tomatoes and chickpeas in a bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper and toss gently.

In a heavy bottomed saucepan, layer the potatoes slices as one layer.

Open flat the grape vine leaf, shiny side down, spoon inside the parsley rice mixture and roll tightly, closing the sides first. Arrange in pan placing the rolls closely one to the other. To finish, top with a layer of tomato slices and strain the reserve stuffing liquid over all.

Place a large plate on the top of the rolls to keep them holding together. Cover with water and cook over low heat for about 40 minutes.

Let cool and serve with yogurt. Garnish with lemon slices and mint leaves.

Note: You might finish the stuffing before the leaves, or the leaves before the stuffing. I tried to be as close as possible to the quantity of the ingredients, but it varies from one size of leaf to other and depends on the amount of stuffing you use in each roll.

 

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Chicory salad – Hindbeh bi Zeit

MayaOryan-Hindbeh Bi Zeit

Lebanese meze is rich in vegetarian dishes. It is an array of sampling size dishes, mostly falling into the same “healthy” bracket, as most recipes contain vegetables, nuts, olive oil, fresh herbs and seeds.

The most popular dish is hummus, but there are also fattoosh, tabouleh, baba ghanouj, fateh, falafel, shankleesh, fatayer silik, Loubieh bi Zeit and many more. So if you prefer vegetables over meat, it’s definitely worth visiting a Lebanese restaurant where vegetarian dishes are served in abundance.

Hindbeh bi zeit is one typical example of salad also falling in the meze category and using simple fresh ingredients. It can be quickly prepared at home. If you can’t find chicory in your region try to look for dandelions, both will result a light and simple salad, tangy with lemon juice and garnished with crisp onions.

Chicory salad – Hindbeh bi Zeit

Serves 4 – Preparation Time 20 minutes – Cooking Time 25 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch of fresh green chicory, washed and chopped coarsely
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 cup onions, sliced
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 4 tbsp lemon juice
  • Olive oil, to taste

Preparation

  1. In a large pot, heat oil and add onions to fry. Let cook until golden. Reserve some for garnishing.
  2. Add the chicory and mix until well incorporated.
  3. Season with salt. Let cook, on low heat, for about 10 minutes.
  4. Turn off the heat and drizzle with lemon juice.
  5. Serve at room temperature with olive oil and lemon wedges.

Another variation of the recipe  you can add sugar while frying the onions or make caramelized onions instead. You will love this salad with toasted pine nuts as well; sprinkle a handful at the end of your preparation.