Pascale’s Kitchen: Grape leaves

After I pick all the grapes off the vines, my next task is to gather enough grape leaves so I can prepare my favorite stuffed grape leaves recipe.

 Stuffed grape leaves with beef and rice (photo credit: PASCALE PEREZ-RUBIN)
Stuffed grape leaves with beef and rice
(photo credit: PASCALE PEREZ-RUBIN)

Summertime is a great time for fruit lovers. Summer fruits are so juicy, colorful and flavorful. I absolutely love walking around outdoor markets in the summer (and, of course, in grocery stores, too, since it’s so hot outside) to see which fruits are in season.

When I find a fruit that is at the height of its season, I buy a huge quantity so that I can make jam

As soon as I get home, I take out all of my jam jars, which within a few hours will be filled with sweet, colorful homemade concoctions. When grapes are in season, I get so excited to create my annual supply of grape jam, which I especially love to serve on Rosh Hashanah and Sukkot

For more of Pascale's recipes, click here>>

Grape jam is best made with seedless grapes, and I personally love to add sesame seeds and almonds, too. 

Luckily, this year the grape vines growing in my yard produced a respectable amount of juicy grapes, and I was able to use them to make my jam. Fresh grapes can, of course, also be used in fresh salads or chicken dishes. 

 Astonishing grape jam (credit: PASCALE PEREZ-RUBIN) Astonishing grape jam (credit: PASCALE PEREZ-RUBIN)

After I pick all the grapes off the vines, my next task is to gather enough grape leaves so I can prepare my favorite stuffed grape leaves recipe. First, I sort the leaves into piles of varying sizes. Next, I blanch the ones I am planning to use immediately, and the rest I freeze for future use. 

Stuffed grape leaves are a popular item in Mediterranean cuisine, and there are many different ways to prepare them. I’ve included one of my favorite versions, which is made with ground beef or chicken. If you don’t have grape leaves, the same recipe can be made using cabbage or lettuce. And if you prefer to make a vegetarian version, you can use rice with nuts and raisins or any other legumes, grains or dried fruits. 

STUFFED GRAPE LEAVES WITH BEEF AND RICE

This dish can be made vegetarian by replacing the beef with more rice.

Makes 30 pieces.

Filling:

  • 2 Tbsp. oil
  • 1 onion, chopped finely
  • 300 gr. chicken breast or beef, ground or chopped
  • 1 cup whole grain Persian rice, rinsed well
  • ¼ cup parsley, chopped
  • ¼ cup mint, chopped
  • ¼ cup pine nuts, roasted
  • ¼ cup dried cranberries, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Grape leaves:

  • Grape leaves in brine 
  • 2 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 large tomato, sliced (optional)

Heat the oil in a large pan and sauté the onion for 2-3 minutes until it turns golden brown. Add the ground chicken or beef and sauté for 5 minutes, mixing continuously until the meat changes color. Transfer to a large bowl. 

Add the rinsed rice and the rest of the filling ingredients to the bowl. Mix well. 

Rinse the grape leaves. Spread them out on your work surface, with the smooth side facing down. Place a spoonful of filling on the edge closest to you, then fold the sides of the grape leaf over on top of the filling. Roll up the grape leaf starting with the side closest to you. Prepare the rest of the stuffed grape leaves in the same way. 

Line the bottom of a pot with more grape leaves, then arrange the tomato slices on top of the leaves. Place the stuffed leaves on top of the tomato slices so that they fit snuggly in the pot. Pour boiling water on top to cover, then add the lemon juice and oil. 

Place a plate on top of the stuffed grape leaves to hold them in place during the cooking process. Cover the pot and cook over a low flame for 40 minutes until the filling has softened. 

Level of difficulty: Medium.Time: 1.5 hours.Status: Meat or parve.

ASTONISHING GRAPE JAM

Makes a 1-1½ liter jar.

  • 1½ kg. light or dark grapes
  • ½ lemon
  • 1 cup water
  • 3½ cups sugar
  • Juice from ½ lemon
  • 1 cup sesame seeds (roasted if desired), optional
  • ½ cup almonds, chopped (roasted if desired), optional

Rinse the grapes and remove them from the stem. Cut the lemon into wedges.

Pour a cup of water into a large, flat pot. Add the sugar and cook for 5 minutes. Add the lemon wedges, the lemon juice and the grapes. Mix and cook for 1.5 hours, while constantly stirring, until the jam becomes rubbery (following directions explained in TiPascale above). 

Add the sesame seeds and almonds. Mix and cook for another 2-3 minutes. 

Let the jam cool, then pour it into the jar. Cover with wax paper and close hermetically. 

Level of difficulty: Medium-easy.Time: 3 hours.Status: Parve.

 Lettuce, grape and raspberry salad (credit: PASCALE PEREZ-RUBIN) Lettuce, grape and raspberry salad (credit: PASCALE PEREZ-RUBIN)
LETTUCE, GRAPE AND RASPBERRY SALAD

Makes 6-8 servings. 

  • 1-2 heads romaine, Batavian or round lettuce
  • 2 handfuls baby leaf and arugula leaves
  • 1-2 cups light or dark grapes
  • 1 cup raspberries
  • 1 cup blackberries
  • 1 cup cashews, roasted
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Slightly sour salad dressing:

  • Lemon juice
  • Lemon zest
  • 1 chili pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. arak and brandy 
  • Salt, to taste

Sweet salad dressing:

  • 2 Tbsp. powdered sugar
  • A little bit of vanilla, ginger, cinnamon or mint

Rinse and completely dry lettuce leaves. 

Place them in a bowl. Add the berries and nuts and mix. 

Blend the salad dressing ingredients.

Just before serving, add the lemon juice, salt and pepper. 

Serve the two types of salad dressing on the side. 

Level of difficulty: Easy.Time: 30 minutes.Status: Parve.

Translated by Hannah Hochner.