War of Grape Leaves.

My mother has a crazy neighbor. She’s nice, but crazy. Randomly, she’ll just show up at my mom’s apartment, pretending to hang out when really she’s watching….listening…judging.  Additionally, this neighbor, we’ll call her ‘Sara’,  always comparing her cooking to my moms. She’ll say things like ‘why are you mixing those with the tomatoes?’, or ‘I usually put the chicken in first’.

Between you and I, ‘Sara’s’ cooking is awful..and don’t worry, I’m 90 % sure that she has no idea I have a blog. But if she is reading this, just know my mom’s grape leaves could kick your grape leaves’ ass, anytime, anywhere.

In fact, my mother is such a grape-leaf fanatic, that one time she came home with her purse full of freshly plucked grape leaves. I had never seen such a thing, and when I asked her where she got them from, she responded with, “oh, our neighbor has a tree”.

me: “really? and he’s cool with you just picking them and stuffing your purse?”

my mom: “well, I didn’t ask them, but I’m sure he wouldn’t mind”

me: “well can we not assume that he wouldn’t mind and perhaps try not to get arrested for trespassing on your neighbor’s land and stealing?!?! Could you be more Arab???”

That’s my mom. Here’s her recipe.

Ingredients: You will need a medium-large pot

1 jar Orlando Grape Leaves (personally, I only use Orlando)
2 medium tomatoes, diced
1 small onion
1 tablespoon EVOO
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups medium-grain rice
6-8 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup lemon juice
1 tablspoon lemon juice-for rice mixture
*1-2 small potatoes sliced*

1 cup water

Steps:

*My mother and i roll grape leaves like mad-women.  The key is to get comfortable, because this will take a while.  I usually set up a station right on our coffee-table, with pillows on the floor,  and some funny movie or tv where we can laugh.

1. mixture. mix rice, tomatoes, onions, cumin, salt, cinnamon, garlic, olive oil, and the tablespoon of lemon juice.

2. Rolling the grape-leaf. lay grape leaf flat so that stem is sticking up. Twist stem off. Lay rice mixture right over middle of grape leaf, covering where the stem used to be, but making sure there is enough room on both the right and left sides to fold the leaves over (remember, rice expands, so you don’t need to make the leaf huge).

Once rice is placed in the middle of grape-leaf, fold right side over, then left side over. Fold the bottom up, and roll the grape leaf tightly, so it doesn’t burst while in the pot. If they don’t turn out perfect, relax and keep practicing.

3. prep the pot… before you place the grape leaves in the pot, my mother lines the bottom of the pot with the sliced potatoes, so that the bottom grape leaves don’t get burned (the ultimate sacrifice). then layer the grape leaves down, filling the pot as tightly as possible. The less gaps in between the grape leaves, the better.  If you even want to stick potato slices in between to make for a better fit, I support you 100%.

Fill the pot with water, lemon juice, salt % pepper to taste, until grape leaves are slightly covered.

4. cookin’. bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 1 hour. The grape leaves should essentially steam, and if your pot is too big, I would suggest putting a plate over the leaves to keep them pressed and make sure the top layer doesn’t loosen (as the rice expands).

They are done when you can easily stick a fork through them, but should not be overcooked. Enjoy : )

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