This is definitely a make ahead kind of snack. Maybe give yourself 3 hours…what!?! Yes, because they need to cool. You might even want to make them the day before. Or at lunch time to serve for an appetizer at dinner. Or be a total renegade and skip the grape leaves all together and just serve the rice, because it can definitely stand its own. But the grape leaves are really fun to make, taste great, make an amazing impression and your kids will love to help. So relax on a weekend afternoon and get rolling. For a recipe for grape leaves that are best served warm go here!
1 jar preserved grape leaves (you will use about 1/2 of the leaves)
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 cup white rice (or brown if you prefer but I like the lightness of white rice in this dish. And with the beans and grape leaves there is plenty of fiber so I felt like white rice was a good choice)
1 cup cooked chickpeas. I always try to cook my own these day, but if you just have canned then go for it. No worries!)
1/2 small yellow onion, finely chopped
3 bay leaves
1 teaspoon dried basil, oregano and marjoram
1 teaspoon dried pepper flakes such as marash or paprika
1/2 teaspoon sumac
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1/3 cup pine nuts (toast them yourself in a sauté pan as the rice cooks or keep em raw)
1 Tablespoon lemon zest, minced or better yet finely shredded with a micro-plane
1 teaspoon veggie bouillon dissolved in 2/3 cup warm water.
You’ll also need a big sauté pan, a plate that fits nicely into the sauté pan and a lid that fits on the pan as well.
In a large stock pot, heat the olive oil and add the onion, cook for about 3-5 minutes and then add the rice, garbanzo beans, 3 bay leaves and 2 cups water. Cover and reduce heat. Cook for 30 minutes (adjust accordingly if using brown rice, please!).
Meanwhile, prepare the grape leaves.
Fill a big pot with water and bring to a boil. Remove a large bundle of leaves from the jar and gently unroll them and place them into the water. Being careful not to damage the leaves, stir with a large spoon. After 2-3 minutes, remove from heat and drain into a large colander and rinse with cold water. This step is important for removing the salt in which the leaves are preserved.
When the rice is done stir in the herbs and lemon zest and mash up the beans with a fork or masher. This is a great arm workout, take your time and work in small batches if you start getting tired/ bored or frustrated by the unmashed beans that keep appearing. Small batches will also help it cool off faster so it’s easier to handle.
Ok, lets start rolling!
Do a quick inventory of your leaves. See any that are really torn or ripped? It’s ok, there might be a couple, you can use them to line the bottom of your sauté pan.
Take a leaf and break or trim off the stem. Lay it, smooth side down on a clean work surface. Scoop a large tablespoonful of the rice mixture and place it toward the bottom of the leaf. Fold up the bottom parts of the leaf, then fold in the sides and then tuck and roll until you have a cute little cylinder. Place this in your sauté pan. Repeat until you’ve used up all the leaves. Pack them in together nice and snug.
Here’s one way to roll them, usually I use two hands but was taking pictures so I learned you could totally do this with one hand but really, use two!
Pour the veggie bouillon over the leaves and cover with a plate (turn the plate upside down, this helps the leaves keep their shape) and then cover with the lid. Bring the liquid to a boil and then immediately bring to a simmer. Simmer for 30 minutes, check about 1/2 way through to make sure there is still liquid, add some boiling water if there is not. After 30 minutes, remove from heat, take off the lid and let cool for about 15 minutes.
Next, carefully remove the plate (handy to use a towel here to catch drips). Have a nice serving platter ready and arrange the grape leaves on the platter. You *could* serve these warm, but usually people eat them cold. I like them at about room temperature. Serve with lemon slices. Enjoy.