Stuffed Grape Leaves

grahic leaves

I didn’t know that stuffed grape leaves were something people were passionate about until, at a party that she was hosting, my sister whispered furtively to her children that if they wanted some stuffed grape leaves that they had better be next to the platter when it came out.  Sure enough, as soon as this food came out -which had cost her $75 – the scramble of aunts, uncles, cousins, grannies, grandchildren, elbows, knees and searching hands caused a pandemonium which, when the dust settled, revealed an empty platter. Woe to the family members who were not close by.

Rice, chickpeas, and mint at the base of a grape leaf
Rice, chickpeas, and mint at the base of a grape leaf


Grape leaves grow wild here in upstate New York. They are everywhere. My mother tells me that they should be picked by the end of June, so now has been the time to try my hand at creating this dish. I thought I would try to make a zine out of the recipe for this dish, so I have been playing with the graphics of grape leaves, as well as with the stuffing of them. My grandmother would use rice, mint, and ground lamb, but, instead of lamb I’ve used chickpeas. The rice is dry, there’s a teaspoon per leaf. The little pile of the filling is placed at the bottom of the leaf, the rolling starts, the sides get tucked in and the rolling continues.

It should be mentioned that some people, but not my mother, blanche the leaves before rolling in the rice. I blanche the leaves. As I wait a pot of water to boil, I have time to play with some of the grape leaves.

green grape leaves 2

Grapes leaves are deeply furrowed, well, as much as a leaf can be, so they make great leaf prints.

green grape leaves

Here I’ve scanned the leaves into photoshop and made the print more dramatic. I tried lots of different filters and backgrounds…most of them weren’t interesting. This is one that I like. Okay, now back to cooking.


Stuff Grape Leaves, waiting to be cooked
Stuffed Grape Leaves, waiting to be cooked

Each little roll is placed closely to another on the bottom of a pot which is lined with larger leaves. We called these pigs-in-the-blanket. Yes, that’s what they look like. When they are all rolled and the pot is filled (I do only one layer at a time, but my grandmother did many layers) I add water until the little pigs are just under water, add salt, cover with a plate, to keep things securely tucked in, then simmer for about 10 minutes. Or  a bit longer, depending if I am having any luck with photoshop.  Then I add a good bit of lemon juice, simmer a bit more, turn off the heat, then let things sit, giving the rice enough time to absorb all the liquid.

Stuffed Grape Leaves and Yogurt
Stuffed Grape Leaves and Yogurt

Here’s the finished product, served with a dollop of old country yogurt. Yum.





11 thoughts on “Stuffed Grape Leaves

  1. I love dolmas! I used to make them from the grape leaves grown in my boyfriends backyard. Very flavorful and beautiful to look at. They also sell them seasonally at Trader Joe’s, although they come in a tin, they are still delightful. Thanks for this post.


    1. Dolmas: is that the Greek name for them? I’ve had the Trader’s Joe kind…they are good, but there is something so lovely and delicate about the fresh ones. I hope you get back to making them sometime. Thanks for your comment!


  2. My mouth is watering! I love stuffed vine leaves. The tinned variety are a good standby in the pantry. Thanks Paula. Made me smile reading your post. Love the images too.


    1. I have to say that if it weren’t for the tinned variety I wouldn’t have known that even my own daughter was wild about stuffed grape leaves, so I am grateful for them…besides which, it;s not always grape leaf picking season…glad you like the images. thanks.


  3. VERY cool. Who would have thought you could make stuffed grape leaves out of plain old grape leaves. Duh! We’ll have to try this.


    1. My family also used the cabbage leaves for this dish. I had forgotten about that! Thanks for the reminder…It seems to me maybe tomatoes were included in the sauce with the cabbage. I’ll have to try this when grape leave season is over.


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