Today I have a very strange breakfast to share with you and some great books! For breakfast today, I’m having stuffed grape leaves. It’s not really a breakfast food, but I eat these anytime. I’m Syrian from my grandfather’s side and stuffed grape leaves are something I grew up eating. When grape leaves are in season I try to make as many as I can because they’re fresh and taste delicious. I was always told not to cut leaves after July 4th because they are tougher. I have cooked them after this point, but they’re so much better in June. I made these yesterday and will eat them a few more times throughout the next few days. I might only get one more cutting.
As a child I never really enjoyed going out to pick grape leaves. I grew up in the city and when it was time to pick leaves we would go out and do some searching, often finding good vines on the side of roads. There was a huge area that would grow right on the edge wall of our church parking lot. I always thought this was ironic! If you can’t find them fresh, you can buy them in a jar. I’ve done this many times and they taste great.
When I moved to the country, I couldn’t understand why we didn’t have any grape leaves growing in our woods. I knew so many people around our area who would have them growing up a single tree on their properties and I didn’t have one vine. I started looking online to see if I could buy some seeds. I couldn’t find anything. Then one day while I was walking around outside, I found this vine growing up alongside this small dead tree. I couldn’t believe it. They were small and new, but the following year they would be perfect, and they were wonderful and huge that following year. As time has gone by, there are more grapevines growing all over around my house. I think this is the coolest thing. They come up every year and I look forward to it. Here’s a picture of the first vine. It’s growing beautifully on this dead tree. I think it’s so beautiful the way they grow up and then cascade down again.
As you can see in the photo below, we have a different species growing this year as well. I just found a new vine and all because of a cat! 😉 The leaves have a sheen to them and the backs have a different green color. My family always had a reason for cooking specific leaves and I believe it depended on the thickness of the veins. I took a chance and cooked both of these this year. I can’t tell the difference between them when eating at all and they all look the same when cooked.
This is a fairly nice leaf. I still use them even if they do have a few small holes or tears. Once you roll them up, you’ll never see any of it and it doesn’t effect anything.
Here’s another one I found in a separate location a few hundred feet away. They are growing all over the place. These don’t look as good, but there are a few good ones in there. It really does seem better to pick earlier in June. Another lesson from grandpa. It’s nice to take the time to search for these vines. How peaceful it is to just take a walk in the woods and listen to the birds and sounds of nature while foraging for food.
In the end I picked roughly 100 leaves which will be enough for a double recipe.
I’m including information here on my grandmother’s Syrian cookbook which has this recipe in it. We will follow the basic recipe with a few modifications.
The book is titled The Art of Syrian Cookery. It’s old, but a good one. I found it on Goodreads, but not this edition. I’m fairly positive it’s the same book. You can read my review below…
This is my go to Syrian Cookbook that belonged to my grandmother. I’m Syrian from my grandfather’s side and I grew up eating some of the more popular recipes including Kibby, Stuffed Grape Leaves, Syrian Bread, and Baklava. It’s organized well and easy to reference.
Even though this is a vintage edition, it contains many recipes with photos and will always remain part of my cookbook collection. I’ve purchased other Syrian cookbooks and they just don’t compare to this one. These recipes are the closest and most authentic to the foods that I grew up eating and taste the same.
I haven’t made all of the recipes, especially the recipes containing brains. I’m not into eating organ meats at all, but for the basics, this is the one I think is best.
Here are photos of the original recipe in the book.
I don’t know what is on the side of the plate in this photo. It’s either apples or potatoes, but I don’t remember seeing this as a child. Maybe because I was too busy eating the rolls.
Here’s how I’m doing it. I’m doubling the recipe to make about 100 rolls. I’m also omitting a few things. I’m not using the lamb bones on the bottom. I’ve never done that. I’m sure it adds more flavor though.
Here’s what I used:
- About 100 fresh picked grape leaves.
- 2 pounds of ground meat (I’m using ground chuck)
- 2 cups of white rice (I like basmati)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Juice from 2 lemons
The first thing I do after picking the leaves is blanch them. Grab a large pot and fill it up 3/4 of the way with fresh water. Bring it to a boil and then turn it down to low.
Grab handfuls of leaves and drop them into the water. You will see them turn from a beautiful green to an olive green shade once ready. This takes roughly 30 seconds or so.
They will be very fragile, so just set them down on a plate and continue blanching the other leaves.
The filling is so easy. I always go by the ratio 1 pound of meat to 1 cup of rice. So, because I’m using nearly two pounds of beef, I’ll add in two cups of raw rice. My grandfather would always say, “More rice, less meat!” All you do is mix it all up with your hands with some salt and pepper to taste. Keep that nearby in a bowl.
We’re ready to roll! This is so simple and just like making stuffed cabbage rolls. You set the leaf down in front of you back side up. add in a about a tablespoon or more depending on the leaf size and roll it away from you one time, tuck in the sides, and continue rolling all the way up. Work on trying to keep the rolls tight. It’s that simple! Of course it goes faster if you have some help. Here’s a little slideshow to show you how easy this is.
Set them in a pan starting from the outside and working your way in as shown. Pack tightly and continue with layers of stuffed grape leaves until you’re finished. You want a smooth layer on the top.
Add in fresh water to cover the leaves by about 1/2 inch. This is where you’ll add in your lemon juice and we’ll also anchor the stuffed rolls by placing a plate on the top so they don’t float around during boiling. If you don’t anchor them, many will unroll in the boiling process. You can also salt the water a bit if you’d like to.
Squeeze in the juice of 2 lemons. I like using one of these nifty lemon squeezers. They’re fairly cheap. I would say definitely purchase a metal one like you see here. Stainless steel is best. I’ve actually broken a few before this one that appeared to be metal, but weren’t.
Bring the water to a boil and then simmer for about 35 minutes.
You can see below that much of the water has been absorbed. Just drain the rest out. These are ready to serve.
I like to sprinkle with Himalayan salt and fresh cracked pepper. You can serve them with a little slice of lemon if desired. I’ll eat these anytime of the day and love them first thing in the morning.
I could eat these all day long!
Books I’m reading today:
To add on Goodreads just click the cover.
Enchanted World Series: Dragons
Blurb: Time-Life has once again done an outstanding job putting together a series. From cover to cover they are thoughtful, beautiful books. Presents tales and examines beliefs about dragons of the enchanted world. Includes: Chaos Incarnate: A Field Guide to Dragons, Glittering Gods of the East, The Serpent Ascendant, Rise of the Dragonslayer. If you love dragons, this may be the ultimate guide book.
I’ve recently started the 3rd book in my Time-Life Enchanted World Series collection. This one’s titled Dragons and I love it so far. The illustrations are beautiful. So far, this is my favorite out of the three. I hope to have it done by next week.
Stump The Grown-Up
Blurb: Baffle your teacher, stump your mom, perplex your grandpa, and confound your big brother with hundreds of awesome trivia questions that only kids know the answers to!
Know-it-alls beware! Grown-ups may think they have all the answers, but I bet you know a lot more than they do about dinosaurs, outer space, geography, and even technology! Now’s the time to find out just how smart your parents really are! Challenge your grandparents to an exciting lightning round of trivia questions, or put Dad to the test with a true-or-false quiz—and see who gets more answers right! (I bet it’ll be you!)
STUMP THE GROWN-UP is the perfect addition to family activity nights, your beach bag, or the back pocket of the driver’s seat. Put the whole family’s IQ to the test with STUMP THE GROWN-UP!
I made a trip to Barnes & Nobles recently and came home with a ‘kids’ book haul. I’ll do a post on that later. Stump The Grown-Up is so much fun! I can’t believe how much I’ve learned. It’s so enjoyable to read with kids and they enjoy ‘quizzing’ everyone while learning themselves. It’s perfect for the summer days out of school to keep their brains moving. This one was worth every penny.
The Wild Country
Blurb: As a boy, Wyn watches helplessly as raiders kill his parents. Saved by his sister in a terrible bargain struck with their leader, Wyn dedicates his life to finding her. He becomes a legend in a time when the country was wild and free, and full of bad men as well as pioneer spirit. As the lonely cowboy metes out justice to the men responsible for changing the course of his life, he meets a girl, and begins to ponder over a life which might have been. Filled with beauty and complexity, with plenty of action for western fans, The Wild Country is a rip-roaring tale in the best tradition of legends told over a campfire.
I’ve been wanting to read Bobby Underwood’s books for some time. I finally chose the two that I was really interested in. I just finished Beyond Heaven’s Reach which was really unique and now I’m reading Wild Country. This one is totally out of my typical genre. It’s a western and I’m really enjoying it! The main character is Wyn and he’s lost his parents to a group of bad guys. They also took his sister. Now he’s on the rampage. I really enjoy stories like this and I hope to finish this today.
Thanks for reading!