Growing up in a Syrian American home, we often made Stuffed Grape Leaves with rice and ground lamb. The rice and lamb was uncooked, and so the stuffed grape leaves simmered in a pot of broth for an hour until all the ingredients cooked and all the luscious flavors married. I love this preparation of Grape Leaves. Now, though, with so many food restrictions, and non-meat eaters, I wanted to create an equally delicious stuffed grape leaf that all could, and would enjoy. The taste and texture achieved in this recipe would fool even your biggest meat eating fan!
Barley has such a creamy texture when cooked, and French lentils often take on the appearance and texture of ground meat, so these two seemed the likely candidate for my stuffing creation. I have cooked both the barley and the French lentils separate, in a home made broth. There is so much more control over the flavors of your broth when you throw a bunch of your favorite things in a pot of boiling water and create the flavors you would want in your grains and legumes. Also, since the ingredients of this dish are cooked before stuffing, the grape leaves only need to be warmed or lightly toasted in a hot oven. I like this concept because it makes it easier to prepare the filling ahead of time and assemble at your own time allowance.
Buying grape leaves has always been a tricky situation throughout my entire life. Some are tough, some so small it becomes necessary to patch several together, therefore using more than one leaf per roll, and so I can only suggest you will have to find a reliable company that packages both a gentle leaf as well as a large one. If you are fortunate enough to have grape leaves growing on your property, then simply place them in a large pan or bowl, salt them, pour boiling water over them, cover and allow to sit until desired softness has been obtained.
Ingredients and Procedure for Meatless stuffing:
Hulled Barley – 2 cups
French Lentils – 1 ½ cups
Broth – 4 cups for the barley and 3 cups for the lentils
Olive oil – 2 tablespoons for filling, more for brushing
Cinnamon – 2 tablespoons
Salt and Pepper– to taste
Lemon juice – from 1 large lemon
Once the barley and lentils have been cooked and slightly cooled, you are ready to marry them together into a stuffing. Salt and pepper to taste. Add cinnamon, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and lemon juice. Roll the grape leaves with stuffing. (Quick and easy how-to video above) Place on a baking sheet, brush with olive oil.
Bake at 350 for about 15 minutes.
Serve with thick plain yogurt, yogurt cheese, or tzatziki (yogurt and cucumber).