Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Stuffed Grape Leaves with Zucchini and Cilantro

Earlier this summer I put up six quarts of preserved grape leaves from some wild vines around our pool fence and we've made two batches of dill and mint-scented stuffed grape leaves. With an abundance of zucchini now shooting from our four plants on a daily basis (when will I learn to only plant one or two summer squashes?) I try to cook up my zukes each night and stash some away in the freezer, but we always seem to have a bit of leftover sauteed zucchini hanging around in the fridge.

We tried a new zucchini variety this year, Bush Baby, which grows a shorter, rounder squash, with lovely dark and light green stripes. They are not very seedy and have a nutty flavor. Like all zucchinis, of course, they are reproductive champs, so I have been trying to pick them every day and cook some up in various ways for our summer suppers. The leftover cooked zucchini usually gets tucked into the freezer, but the other night I thought about chopping some up into some other leftovers: cooked rice and tomato sauce and making stuffed vine leaves. Untraditional they were, but TASTY! The fresh cilantro adds a nice green zing as a change from the traditional mint and dill.

Once you have access to brined grape leaves, making dolmades is a breeze. The time-consuming part is the grape leaf harvest and selecting the perfect-sized leaves and leaves without Japanese beetle chomps. After washing the leaves, rolling them into bundles and brining them up took only short while. But if you have them brined up or purchase grape leaves already preserved, all you need to do is basically whip up a rice salad, stuff your grape leaves and bake them.

Here's what I did:

Stuffed Grape Leaves with Zucchini and Cilantro

1 cup tomato sauce (I had leftover homemade with lots of garlic and basil)
3 cups leftover cooked rice
1 cup sauteed zucchini (I had sauteed it with garlic, olive oil and fresh basil), coarsely chopped
3 Tbsp. finely chopped cilantro
36 preserved grape leaves in brine
Olive oil
Juice of 1/2 lemon

Drain leaves and unfurl. Pat dry and reserve.

Pour half of tomato sauce to cover bottom of a 1 quart baking dish. Place remaining tomato sauce in a mixing bowl with rice, chopped zucchini and cilantro. Don't add any salt and pepper as the salt from the brined grape leaves will seep in to season the filling during baking.

Place one teaspoon of this rice filling in the center of each grape leaf. Fold sides in first, then roll up and place, seam-side down, in saucy baking dish. I found that 36 stuffed grape rolls covered the bottom of my baking dish, but you may haved different results with differently-shaped baking dishes and differently-sized grape leaves. Any leftover rice stuffing can be seasoned with a little brine from the grape leaf jar and eaten as a refreshing rice salad later.

Drizzle a little olive oil over the top and cover with foil. Bake in preheated 350 degree F oven for 30 minutes.

Let cool 5 minutes. Then drizzle lemon juice over top and serve. Also great cold!


Makes 36 stuffed grape leaves.
A refreshing dinner on a hot and steamy summer's eve.

I am sending a platter of these delicious stuffed grape leaves over to Weekend Herb Blogging, a weekly food blogging event headquartered at Cook (Almost) Anything At Least Once. WHB is focused on the Vegetable Kingdom and posts which show how to grow and eat vegetables, fruits and herbs. This week, Weekend Herb Blogging is being hosted by A Food Lover's Journey. Stop by and check out the WHB roundup after the August 16 deadline. And start thinking about a great vegetable, herb or fruit recipe for the week of August 24-30, when I'll be your WHB host.


Deb in Hawaii said...

The fact that you grow such amazing things amazes me. Your stuffed grape leaves look amazing. I love the addition of the zucchini.

Laurie said...

Your stuffed grape leaves look wonderful. We are overflowing with zucchini here too.

Your Adirondack picnic looked so perfect. Beautiful photos!

FOODalogue said...

Looks/sounds wonderful! I'd like to do my produce shopping in your garden!

Amy Green (Simply Sugar and Gluten-Free) said...

Wow - those look incredible. If only we had grape leaves. I haven't had these since long before I went GF and SF.

Alicia Foodycat said...

What a delicious-looking platterful!

As something else to use up a few zucchini - I made nachos the other night and stirred a couple of fat grated zucchini through the refried bean layer. Lightened and moistened it up, but the flavour wasn't really obvious.

Maria Verivaki said...

well done - this looks beautiful!

Valerie Harrison (bellini) said...

These are untraditional but they are something I would just love to try.I will have to remember to source out vine leaves in the Spring...but jarred ones will do.