Friday, February 18, 2011

prakhih (or stuffed grape leaves/dolma/dolmades)

stuffed grape leaves are without a doubt one of my favorite foods, but store bought varieties or the kinds you find in restaurants are nothing like the ones my mom made when i was growing up. when i've typically found them the leaves were stuffed with a mixture of rice and herbs and nothing else. boring. these leaves are chock full of lots of goodies. thanks for sharing mom : )


1 16 oz jar of grape leaves (if you have access to fresh ones, you can flash boil them with a bit of salt and freeze them for use year round), rinsed of brine and trimmed of extra long stems
2-3 potatoes, any variety, sliced into disks

2 cups white short grained rice (not arborio or sushi rice, something along the lines of riceland. basmati can also be used if you have it around), rinsed
1 15 oz can chick peas, rinsed
3 cups of diced fresh tomatoes, reserve their tops
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1/3 cup diced chives (green onion can also be used)
1 cup chopped flat leaf parsley, reserve the stems
1 tablespoon chopped mint
juice of 2-3 lemons (depending on their size)
1/2 cup-3/4 cup olive oil (this dish really depends on oil, so i recommend using the larger of the two amounts)
salt and pepper, to taste

in a large bowl, combine all the ingredients except for the grape leaves and potatoes. mix well, taste, and set aside. the mixture should be a bit on the salty side.
prepare a large pot (a 5 1/2 quart pot works well) by lining the bottom with a layer of grape leaves. over that layer, arrange a layer of potato slices and the reserved tops of your diced tomatoes. sprinkle your parsley stems over that layer, and set the pot aside.
prepare a work surface where grape leaves can be spread and rolled (a large cutting board works well). place a single leaf on your work surface, with the veiny side up. place approximately 2 tablespoons of the rice mixture into the center of the leaf. fold the two sides over the mixture, followed by the bottom, and then roll towards the top. the process is very similar to that of a burrito. you want to wrap the mixture up entirely by the leaf, and the tighter the roll the better. place the completed roll in the prepared pot and repeat the process using all of the rice mixture. when placing the stuffed grape leaves into the pot, place them starting on the outside, and moving around the edge, creating a tightly packed coil. this recipe should yield approximately 40 stuffed grape leaves and 2 coiled layers. once you have rolled and packed all your stuffed leaves, take any excess liquid from the bowl that held the rice mixture, and pour it into the pot. place a plate (one with a flat base works best) over the packed leaves (this prevents them from floating and maintains that they are tightly rolled), and cover them with water. bring the pot to a boil, then reduce the heat and allow to simmer, mostly covered, for at least an hour. check on them every so often, and if some of the leaves around the edges begin to float upwards, you may poke them back down or rearrange you plate as necessary. you can simmer them for as long as it takes for the water to boil away, but they will likely be ready before then. test one to make sure the rice is well cooked and the onions are quite soft. when they taste delicious, you'll know they're done. do not serve immediately, they are best when they have had a chance to rest. enjoy sprinkled with a bit of fresh lemon juice!


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