Love stuffed grape leaves, but afraid they'll be too much work? They are way easier that I imagined, and I am a lazy cook. Give them a try, at least once, and I think you'll be back for more.
You can make dolmas with canned leaves, but picking and blanching leaves is pretty easy too. Spring is the best time to harvest grape leaves. They are more tender and less "blighted". I've been waiting for them to get just the right size, and now is the time. The following recipe is for 60, an ambitious amount, but they can be frozen and reheated. I picked 36 leaves, a good amount for us. I didn't want to take leaves from my neighbors side.
To prepare the leaves yourself, pick healthy leaves in the spring. They should be about the size of your outspread hand. If your hands are small, like mine, maybe a little bigger. I had my water boiling and ready to go, the fresher, the better.
Wash the leaves and blanch them for about 3 seconds in boiling salted water. I did them in batches of three and kept them flat. Placing three in a deep pan and turning the three over to finish the boil. I had a large bowl of cold water ready to dunk the leaves to stop the cooking.
After all were blanched, I placed them in a plastic zip bag with a little lemon juice. You can easily freeze them like this if you like. They can also be rolled in batches and put up in jars, but you have to be careful to add enough lemon juice to prevent botulism.
2 cups uncooked long-grain white rice
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 cup chopped fresh dill or 2 T dry dill weed
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
2 quarts chicken broth (water is OK if you want vegan)
3/4 cup fresh (bottled OK too) lemon juice, divided
60 grape leaves, drained and rinsed
hot water as needed
1 cup olive oil
1. In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, saute the rice, onion, dill,
and mint for about 5 minutes, or until onion is soft. Pour in 1 quart of
broth, or water. Reduce heat to low and simmer for another 10 to 15 minutes, or
until rice is almost cooked. Stir in 1/2 of lemon juice and remove from
2. Take one leaf, shiny side down, and place 1 teaspoon of the rice
mixture at the bottom (stem) end of the leaf. Fold both sides of the leaf
towards the center, roll up from the broad bottom to the top, and place
into a 4-quart pot. Repeat with all leaves, leaving no gaps as leaves are
placed in pot (to prevent from opening while cooking). Sprinkle with
remaining lemon juice and with olive oil.
3. Pour chicken broth, or water over all to cover grape leaves. Cover pot and
simmer for about 1 hour (do not boil, because this will make the stuffing
burst out of the leaves). Remove from heat, remove cover and let cool
for 1/2 hour. Transfer to serving dish and serve. I prefer mine chilled.