Apricot and Almond Stuffed Grape Leaves

Recipes: Debbi Snook

Wine Commentary: Gary Twining

A nutty, fruity stuffing makes it worth the bit of practice required to master your leaf-rolling technique. It’s easy to use leaves from a jar, but if you have access, consider collecting leaves right off the vine. In spring, pick them as big as your hand, tender and light green. Blanch in boiling water until they wilt, then refresh in ice water. Tell your foraging story as you pass the plate.

  • 1/2 pound grape leaves, from jar
  • 1 1/2 cups onion, finely chopped
  • 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided use
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted (6 minutes in 320-degree oven) and chopped a bit more
  • 1 1/2 tsp tomato paste
  • 1 cup short grain white rice
  • 3 TBS dried apricots, finely diced
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 1 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
  • 2-3 TBS chopped fresh dill fronds
  • 2 TBS minced chives
  • Juice of 1 lemon

Separate leaves in heatproof pot and de-salt them by soaking them in boiling water 15 minutes. Drain and add ice water to rinse and refresh.

Make filling by placing slivered almonds in bowl. Fry chopped onion in 3 tablespoons oil until soft. Add to bowl and stir well with tomato paste, rice, apricots, salt, pepper, spices and herbs.

Lay a leaf completely flat, shiny side down, the tip pointing away from you. Cut off free-hanging stem and discard. Put a tablespoon of filling just above the stem cut, forming a horizontal line about 2-1/2 inches wide and 1/2-inch thick. Take each side of the leaf and fold over filling, keeping a uniform width. Then start folding up leaf from the bottom, using a bit of firm pressure as you start. (A small silicone baking pad can help maintain even pressure.) Finish the roll.

Line a heavy-bottomed pot with a layer of less-than-perfect, unfilled leaves. Assemble filled leaves snugly on top. Pour on remaining olive oil, lemon juice and enough water to just cover the stuffed leaves. Put a small plate on top to keep them submerged. Simmer for one hour, adding water as necessary.  

Test a bundle to make sure rice is fully cooked. Cool in the pan before serving.

Makes about 24 rolls.

Gary: With the acidity of the lemon, the herbs used for flavoring and the oil in the preparation, look for a richer white with good acidity to bring out the citrus/herb notes and cleanse the palate of the olive oil. Try a dry Riesling or Vidal, Albariño, Pinot Gris, Chardonel, or a flavorful sparkling wine from Spain, Ohio or California. Why not consider a Greek white from the Patras region, or one made from Malagousia grapes. The toasted almond character can be echoed with a white wine with a hint of oak, such as a barrel-aged Chardonnay or Viognier.

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