A quick online search for “grape leaves recipe” will give you a LOT of options, but many of them look a little intimidating. Here is one that even I (the super-slacker, married-to-a-former-restaurant-owner-so-I-don’t-have-to-cook cook) can handle; I actually have it memorized. So, try this one and if you like it it’s easy to experiment and find something your family might like better!
It doesn’t have a real name, so we can go with “Grape Leaves with Feta and Hamburger.” That’s about all you need, too. Unlike dolmas, which are served in a number of Greek restaurants, these are served hot. They are also not oily at all. I think you could easily use ground turkey instead of hamburger which would be a little healthier. Also, grape leaves are chock-full of Vitamin A.
Just as an aside, these aren’t always the prettiest food. Especially considering my culinary “skills.” (That’s why there’s no photo of the ones I make.) But, they’re relatively healthy and sort of exotic (for me, anyway) … and if you like savory foods this one might earn a spot on your list.
1 jar of grape leaves (most grocery stores carry them near the olives)
1 cup of crumbled Feta cheese
1 lb. of browned hamburger (or ground turkey)
salt and pepper
What to do:
- First, pull all the grape leaves out of the jar. They’re packed in a sort of brine, so do it over a tray or someplace easy to clean up. Rinse them off; I don’t separate them all to rinse them – I just put them in a colander and run them under cold water. You can press them to get more liquid out (like you do with thawed chopped spinach). You don’t want them DRY, just not sopping wet.
- Set up your work station: Two plates and a casserole dish with a lid, and a roll of paper towels. Put a few paper towels on one of the plates, where you’ll lay the grape leaves. This will soak up some of the water as you work. You’ll also need a large spoon, like a soup spoon.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Mix your browned meat with the Feta in a bowl. Add a little salt and pepper.
- Lay your rinsed grape leaves on the plate with the paper towels. Peel one off the top and put it on the other plate. Blot it dry-ish with a clean paper towel (you can use this paper towel until it’s soaked). Spoon about two spoonfuls of the meat/cheese in the center of the leaf. You’ll notice that the leaves aren’t uniform; they also can tear easily. So put enough meat that you can still roll it all up in the leaf.
- Roll the leaf in the same manner as rolling up a burrito.
- Place your little grape leaf/cheese/meat “burrito” in the casserole dish and repeat until you’ve used up all of your ingredients. If you have some smaller leaves left over, leave a little of the meat/cheese mixture.
- Bake your little creation for about 20-25 minutes. Because the meat is already cooked, you are just heating it up again. In a pinch you can use a microwave, but the over is much better so it heats evenly without hot spots.
- Take it out of the oven and serve on plates with a lemon wedge. The acidity of the lemon balances out the zing of the grape leaves.
I usually serve this with white rice, but you can see what sounds good to you. I don’t like the rice in the rolls, because of the texture, but some people like this.
Oh yeah, the extra meat/cheese and the little grape leaves you didn’t use – chop them up, make a little salad, heat in the microwave and then squirt a little lemon on it. Then you can eat this before “dinner” and have a little savory sneak-preview.