Stuffed grape leaves (a.k.a. dolmas)

These stuffed grape leaves were part of Project Eat That Rice and part the result of my dashing husband opening a jar of preserved grape leaves a friend had jarred and given to me. He thought they were already stuffed and ready to eat. Just imagine his disppointment when instead of luscious and rich rice filled leaves with plenty of olive oil he was met with plain old leaves blanched and jarred in salt water. It’s quite sad, really.

But it has a happy ending: I made stuffed grape leaves and they were delicious, if I do say so myself. And I have a back-up source, my toughest critic. My dashing husband declared them remarkably flavorful and served himself three (3!) helpings. Eat them as you like, but we liked them with a squirt of lemon juice and a bit of fresh goat cheese alongside.

Brown rice stuffed grape leaves

2 Tbsp. olive oil
4 onions, finely chopped
1 tsp. salt
2 garlic cloves, minced
8 green onions, finely chopped
2 cups short grain brown rice
1/2 cup pine nuts
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper (it seems like a lot, but it works)
1/4 cup minced fresh mint (same as for pepper :) )
5 dozen grape leaves
Extra delicioso olive oil for drizzling
Lemon wedges
Fresh goat cheese or soft feta (optional)

Heat a saute pan or medium pot over medium-high heat. Add oil, onion, and salt. Cook, stirring a fair amount, until onions are tender, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook until tender, about 1 minute. Add green onion and cook, stirring, until wilted, about 1 minute. Add rice, stir to coat thoroughly, and add 3 cups water. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to low. Cook, undisturbed, for 30 minutes. Turn off heat and let sit 15 minutes. Uncover, fluff, and stir in pine nuts and sunflower seeds. Let sit until just warm and stir in pepper and mint. Taste and adjust salt and pepper to taste.

Lay a grape leaf in front of you. Add a spoonful of filling to the center by the stem. Fold up the bits of leaf below the stem and tuck under – as you can – to form a little bundle. Fold sides of leaves over the filling bundle and roll entire bundle to wrap completely in the remaining grape leaf.

Place stuffed and rolled grape leaves on a lightly oiled baking tray. Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 350 for about half and hour. Uncover and drizzle grape leaves with high quality, really tasty olive oil. Let sit until warm or cool and serve with lemon wedges for spritzing and goat cheese, if that’s your style.