Stuffed Grape Leaves are not the quickest to prepare, but they are definitely one of the most delicious traditional Lebanese dishes! Grape leaves can be found in most Middle Eastern stores or even your grapevine in your backyard. Eva's mother used to visit fields and pick bags of grape leaves to freeze. Your grape leaves will taste just as good no matter how you choose to get them! Traditionally grape leaves were stuffed with lamb, but in this recipe we will be using ground beef.
1. If using jarred grape leaves, place in colander in sink and rinse under cold water to remove pickling juice. If using fresh picked grape leaves, wash in warm water in colander (warm water makes them easier to work with)
2. In a separate bowl, add meat, 3 tablespoons of melted butter, 2 cups of rice, half teaspoon of pepper, 1 teaspoon of salt (add more or less based on your preference) and mix with your hands to get it all together
3. After mixing, clip stems off grape leaves (leave 5-6 leaves aside to line your pot)
4. To roll grapes leaves: lay out flat (some people cut grape leaves in half to have less and others use the whole leaf, Eva’s preference is to use whole. If it's the size of a hand, it should be a good size). Place about a teaspoon of mixture in center of grape leave and even it out to make a long line
5. Fold top part (side where you cut off stem) over meat mixture, then bring the right side over to center, the left side over to the center, and keep leaf flat and roll. Tuck leaf in as you roll to keep the shape. The leaf is wet so it will stay in place. (don’t roll too tightly, give your rice room to cook) *Mixture goes on the inside of leave or rough side, the shiny part of the leaf should be on the outside. (if a grape leaf looks strange, save and use to line pot later on)
6. Line bottom of pot with grape leaves and be sure to cover the whole bottom. Use steak to line bottom (no specific amount needed, you can do one small piece in center or different pieces). This is used for added flavor, and the meat even tastes good after you cook the grape leaves.
7. Put grape leaves in circular pattern, starting with the outer part of the pot and make rows until you reach the center (or if you have a pot that is smaller like ours, you will only have one roll around and the rest in the center) *don’t pack the grape leaves too tight, be sure to give them some room to cook
8. Sprinkle 2-3 dashes of salt on top of grape leaves in your pot, cut up 1 teaspoon of butter into slices and add
8. Use an oven proof plate and add to center of pot to hold in place (face down)
9. Add 4 and a half cups of water to pot (or enough to cover top row)
10. On medium high heat, bring to boil. This takes around 10 minutes
11. Simmer on low and cover for 25 minutes, remove plate and partially cover until water has completely evaporated (to test if water has evaporated, tilt pot to side and see how much water goes to the side.
12. *Optional: Add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice over the top and turn stove off, partially cover and let rest for a few moments before serving.