Early Spring – May and June around our area – is the season for picking fresh grape leaves off the vine for cooking and stuffing. While grape leaves can be bought year-round in jars and cans, we’ve found that fresh leaves have a truly unique flavor and mouthfeel. No special variety of grape vine is needed. We used ordinary Concord Grape leaves in this recipe.
- 20 medium - grape leaves (select the light-ish green leaves, at least as big as your hand)
- 3 cups - cooked brown Jasmine rice, or your favorite brown rice
- 1/2 cup - chopped walnuts
- 1 Tbs - finely chopped fresh parsley
- 1/4 cup - finely chopped fresh lemon balm (optional)
- 1 tsp - finely chopped fresh mint
- 1 tsp - ground paprika
- 1/4 medium - onion, diced
- 1 medium - red bell pepper, diced
- 2 Tbs - lemon juice
- Rinse the grape leaves and set aside. Remove the stems but don't cut into the leaf.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Blanch the grape leaves for 3-5 minutes in the boiling water, then remove them to a plate to drain. You can blanch 5-6 leaves at a time in a large pot.
- In a mixing bowl, combine the rice, walnuts, parsley, lemon balm, mint, paprika, onion, and red pepper. Salt to taste and set aside.
- Prepare a large pot (reuse the same one you blanched the leaves in) by placing 2-3 grape leaves on the bottom of the pot (enough to cover the bottom of the pot).
- Stuff each of the remaining grape leaves by placing a leaf on a clean work surface, smooth side down and vein side facing you. Place 1/4 cup of the filling on the leaf near where the stem was. Roll from the stem side of the leaf, covering the filling, then fold in the sides, and roll the rest of the way. Set aside. Repeat with the rest of the leaves.
6. Gently place all the stuffed grape leaves in the prepared pot, seam side down. Cover with 3 cups of water. Place a heavy plate on top, and cover. The plate keeps the stuffed leaves from floating to the top and falling apart - don't skip this step! Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium and cook for 20 minutes.
Nutrition (per serving): 273 calories, 54% calories from carbohydrates, 10% calories from protein, 36% calories from fat, 5.5g fiber.