CNYEats: A Taste of Utica Stuffed Grape Leaves

by Joanne on September 6, 2009

This weeks recipe for Central New York is Stuffed Grape Leaves, page 11 of A Taste of Utica.   I had never heard of these tasty stuffed vegetables.  Most people who have been making these for years will pick the leaves right from their own back yards.  The grape leaves grow abundantly in Upstate New York.  We have so many around our yard however I’m not quite sure the best time to pick them.  If you do pick the leaves, you can keep them in a brine (not sure about freezing…anyone know?) until ready to use.  My leaves for today’s recipe were purchased from Hannafords….

DSC_0891If they come from a jar or have been preserved in a brine, you will need to rinse them well. I emptied the leaves from the jar and soaked them in cold water overnight. The water was changed 4 times to remove the salty taste from the leaves.

NOTE:  You do not have to use grape leaves for this recipe.  You can use Chard leaves.  Just boil for a couple of minutes to soften (after rinsing well to get the grit off them), then roll as the directions below.  Also…how about using the following mixture for Napa Cabbage rolls?  Don’t limit yourself.

There are a lot of different recipes for grape leaves. The one in our Utica book is different than what I have encountered before in that 1. you pre-cook the rice and 2.  you cook the leaves in the oven.  Interesting.  The result was terrific.  Here it is, step by step.  Get your leaves, get your rice, get your spices….off we go.

Stuffed Grape Leaves  (meat) by Amanda  (See below for meatless mixture)

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There are no measurements in the book because Amanda does not like “confined” cooking.  I will offer the measurements I used however, please adjust to your liking but make sure the filling is relatively firm otherwise you will have a mushy leaf.

  • 1 onion finely chopped …or use 1/4 cup minced, dried onion
  • 1/2 lb lamb… or use 1/2 lb ground beef *use about 85% fat otherwise the result will be too dry OR…add olive oil to the meat mixture.
  • 3 TBS toasted pine nuts *I added this ingredient
  • 3/4 cup cooked rice – medium or short grain
  • 1 tomato – diced small * This was an ingredient I added and NOT in the original recipe
  • 3 TBS chopped FRESH parsley
  • 1/2 tsp All spice
  • 1 lemon, sliced* I added this
  • 2 cloves garlic, thick sliced *I added this
  • 3 cups lemon juice
  • 32 oz Chicken or Vegetable broth
  • 1 cup water
  • salt and pepper to taste

Meatless Grape Leaf Mixture *to be assembled the same way however there is no pre cooking of anything but the rice.)

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  • 15 oz can Cannellini beans – mashed with fork
  • 2 TBS toasted pine nuts
  • 3/4 cup cooked rice – medium or short grain
  • 1 tomato – diced small
  • 1/3 cup parsley – chopped
  • 1 TBS fresh mint leaves – chopped
  • 1/4 tsp all spice
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper and also 1/4 tsp red pepper
  • 2 TBS olive oil
  • 1 TBS lemon juice
  • MIX ALL THE ABOVE TOGETHER FOR YOUR FILLING

Saute the onions and ground meat until JUST browned and still a little pink. 

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Mix the cooked rice with the meat.  Add the herbs and spices, pepper and salt, tomato if using and mix together.

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Drain your grape leaves.  Chop the thick stem off the leaf.

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Place a layer of grapeleaves along the bottom of your baking pan so the others don’t stick or burn.  Preheat the oven to 375 deg. F. 

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Place the leaf shiny side DOWN and put a tsp of filling towards the bottom (stem end) of the leaf.  Fold in the sides and roll up from the bottom.  This is where I always mess up….you need to roll these little cuties up fairly tight…but not TOO tight.  Then place seam side down in your baking dish.  

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Amanda’s instructions:  After all leaves are in the dish, cover with the lemon juice and broth – the liquid should be half way up the dish or less. Bake 350/375 for 30 minutes or until wilted a bit – watch to see if more liquid needs to be added so the leaves don’t dry out.

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My instructions:  After you have completed the first row, add some slices of lemon, and some slices of garlic on the stuffed leaves.  Add another row of stuffed leaves.  Cover with the lemon juice, broth and water.   Top with more lemon slices and garlic.  Put the lid on your dish and place in the oven for 45 minutes.  Let sit in the oven, after turning it off for another 1/2 hour.   Allow to cool before eating. They will firm up slightly.  The meatless leaves are served cold.

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Here is a little pre  prep work for you if you are working along with me from the book. Next week we are suppose to make Italian Homemade Green Olives.  That’s right, we will cure our own olives.  This takes 10 to 12 days because we have to soak the FRESH olives in water and salt to soften.  I’ve never done this before….never even THOUGHT of doing this but hey…I’m up for anything..you?   Here is where I  purchased my olives, GREAT OLIVES because I had no idea where to get them locally. If we can buy them locally, please comment on this blog and let us all know. 

We will be doing the olives in a couple of weeks to allow the softening time.  So next week we are jumping ahead to Mozzarella Sticks on page 13.

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1 Comment

  • At 2009.09.07 09:47, applec said:

    This comment was posted on Gather regarding the above recipe. It is SO helpful from Madame Donna:

    “Lovely, Joanne. I’ve been making dolmades (stuffed grape leaves) for decades. They can be frozen, after they are cooked, and kept in the freezer for about 4-6 months if you wrap them well to protect against freezer burn.

    They are even better if you do use fresh leaves which is impossible for many people unfortunately. They are best in late spring (May-June) They should be light green, and use the ones closest to the grapes. I was taught to count down 3 leaves, pick 2-3 and move on to the next stem. If you have access to fresh leaves, by all means use them! “

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