Wrap Up the Summer with Stuffed Grape Leaves
Shared by Rinat Tzadok
Recipe roots: Qamishli, Syria > Herzliya, Israel > Tel Aviv, Israel
Margalit Cohen immigrated to Israel from Qamishli, a city in Syria near the Turkish border, in 1964. She settled in Herzliya, where she still lives. Margalit, who is now 87 years old, worked her entire life as a personal chef, cooking for people in their homes. On Shabbat, the day of rest, she has her nine children over to her house for an elaborate meal. Preparations begin on Thursday night, when Margalit makes stuffed grape leaves, which she fills with a mixture of dried fruit–sweetened rice, and rolls by hand. This is the first course in the meal, which is then followed by many others, mostly traditional Jewish foods from Aleppo. “She makes 10 versions of stuffed kibbeh!” marvels The Jewish Food Society’s cook in residence Rinat Tzadok, a friend of Margalit’s son, Yaniv, and a frequent guest at her table. Rinat loves Margalit’s stuffed grape leaves so much that she makes them for Shabbat during the summer, when fresh grape leaves are readily available. As for Margalit, at the conclusion of her sabbath dinner, she packs up all of the leftovers and divides them between her children. Then, she does it again the next week. And the next.
Margalit's Stuffed Grape Leaves
Serves: 10 to 12 servings
Time: 1 hour and 25 minutes, plus cooling time
For the Rice:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1½ cups short-grain rice
3 tablespoons Uzbek raisins or dried cranberries
1½ teaspoons salt
Pinch of cinnamon
Pinch freshly ground black pepper
1 cup boiling water
For the Grape Leaves:
50 grape leaves (fresh or jarred)
2 lemons, sliced
2 tomatoes, sliced
10 garlic cloves, sliced
6 tablespoons olive oil
¼ cup boiling water
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
Pinch freshly ground black pepper
1. Make the rice: In a medium skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until softened. 3 to 4 minutes. Add rice, raisins, salt, cinnamon and pepper, and cook to toast the rice slightly, 2 minutes. Add the water and cook, stirring occasionally until the rice is par cooked, 7 minutes. Transfer to a bowl to cool. Makes about 3 cups.
2. Lay out the grape leaves on a cutting board, vein side up. Working in batches, lay out 1 tablespoon of the rice in the bottom third of the grape leaf, spreading into a 3½-inch line. Fold the right and left sides of the grape leaf to meet the ends of the line of rice, then tightly roll up the leaf from the bottom up, making a tight package.
3. In a medium pot or Dutch oven, layer the lemon slices in the bottom, followed by the tomato slices and garlic. Arrange the stuffed grape leaves in a concentric circle. Place the next layer perpendicular to the first to make taking them out easier.
4. In a small bowl, stir together the remaining ingredients and pour over the grape leaves. Place a small ceramic plate just smaller than the pot on top of the grape leaves and cover the pot with a lid. (The plate helps keep the grape leaves moist and the rice steam evenly while keeping the grape leaves tightly rolled, alternatively, you could cut a sheet of parchment paper and lay over the grape leaves while they cook.)
5. Cook over medium heat for 20 minutes. Using oven mitts or a kitchen towel, pick up the pot and lightly swirl to distribute the liquid. Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue to cook for additional 20 minutes, until the rice is cooked through and grape leaves are soft. Serve warm or let cool completely and serve at room temperature.