I've always found stuffed grape leaves so elegant: a minty, tangy, streamlined, multitextured appetizer that's sure to wake up your senses and never disappoints.
The leaves themselves come from the fruit-bearing vine of the Vitaceae family and are usually brined or pickled to soften them and remove bitterness. Stuffed grape leaves are popular in Mediterranean cuisine and are terrific for your heart. In fact, the Department of Health and Human Services mentioned grape leaves on their list of suggested food purchases for a healthy lifestyle. Grape leaves offer a body vitamins K, B6, A, E, and C, as well as fiber, calcium, and iron. Each (unstuffed) leaf has about 14 calories and is low in sugar and sodium.
Greek legend has it that stuffed grape leaves (also called dolmades) were first served on the mountain of the gods, along with nectar and ambrosia, a nice image to keep in mind as you enjoy them. Here is a recipe to get you started, courtesy of HappyCow.Net. You can clean up any spills with Seventh Generation All-Purpose Natural Cleaner Made With Organic Sunflower and Coconut.
Stuffed Grape Leaves
1 jar (16 ounce) vine leaves, drained and separated
1 ¼ cup rice
½ cup chickpeas
½ cup chopped fresh parsley
½ cup chopped fresh mint
½ cup chopped fresh scallion
1 ½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
½ cup olive oil
4 cloves garlic crushed
½ cup lemon juice
1 ½ cup water
Wash the grape leaves thoroughly in cold water to remove the salt. Mix the next 10 ingredients on the list. Stuff the grape leaves using one heaping teaspoon of stuffing. Roll up, folding bottom of leaf up over the stuffing and folding in sides (similar to a burrito).
In a 4-quart pan place rolls side by side in layers. Pour lemon juice and water over the rolls. Cook covered for 45 minutes Cook gently being careful not to boil, as it will tear the rolls open. To serve, lift out leaves from the pan with slotted spoon. Serve hot or cold.
This recipe makes 40 rolls, and prep time is 30 minutes.
Photo: Trent Strohm