Tuesday, February 1, 2011
Lebanese Rolled Grape Leaves (Warak inib mishwee)
These are rolled grape leaves with ground lamb, and are very different from the Greek style of rolled grape leaves. They are served warm, not cold, although I eat them cold as well and are served with plain whole milk yogurt, (vanilla flavor is delicious with them, too). We used to pick our own grape leaves because you can only use the ones that grow in the wild.
Do not ever, ever use the ones that grapes are grown from. Those are tough bad boys and they will taste horrible! If you don't want to pick them, most supermarkets now sell them packed into jars. There are about 50 in a jar, so I buy 7 for my family. Just kidding. But they would eat them if I did.
If you buy them in jars, soak and rinse them very, very well in cold water several times to get the salt brine off of them.
50 grape leaves
1 tsp. salt
Juice of 3 lemons (save the lemon halves)
1 cup Uncle Ben's Rice...uncooked or a long grain white rice
1 pound ground lamb about 80% lean
Lebanese pepper ( as you all know by now, you can use ground Jamaican allspice)
If you are using fresh grape leaves, soak them in hot water for about 15 minutes to make them soft. If you are using jarred, follow instructions above to prep them. Rinse and drain thoroughly, then snip the stems off. Or have the kids do it.
In the bottom of a large saucepan, place 3 or 4 grape leaves to cover the bottom of the pan. My mother recently began to use sliced potatoes in the bottom of the pan to line it, so you can do either one. You can also use lamb bones. Why do this step? So the bottom layer of leaves won't burn.
Mix together the lamb, rice, salt and pepper and mix with your clean hands until everything is evenly distributed.
Turn the bottom up over the filling and tightly, but not too tightly, roll the leaf toward the top:
OK. Now, you want to leave the tip of the leaf at the bottom of the roll so it does not unwrap. That is how you place it in the pot or saucepan. With the tip of the leaf down. Don't roll them too loosely, they will unravel as they cook and you would have grape leaf and lamb stew. Line them up in the pan and alternate the direction of each layer.
Sprinkle with salt when you have all the leaves rolled and in the pan. Press an inverted dish over the top of them. Yes, make it on the heavier side. Helps keep them in place. Add water to cover dish. Add the lemon juice and the halves of lemons you squeezed. Cook these on medium-low heat for 35 minutes. Add more lemon juice, if desired. I desire this, but I absolutely love lemon juice.
Place in a serving dish, add yogurt on the side, and watch them disappear! Personally, I could live on these and tabouleh for every meal for the rest of my life. And don't try to save any leftover for lunch the next day. They won't be there.