When a coworker loaned me his old copy of Food of Life: A book of ancient Persian and modern Iranian cooking and ceremonies by Najmieh Batmanglij, I made a few copies of the recipes before I returned the book- And I'm so glad I did! Turns out the book has been out of print for a while, but now is being republished in Feb 2011. Judging from this recipe, I think it'll be a winner.
Of course, there aren't too many vegan recipes in the book (except the pickles!). But most are easily vegan-izable, like these stuffed grape leaves. I LOVE Greek dolmas, the simple rice and dill stuffed grape leaves usually served cold with lots of lemon. These are similar in that they use dill and lemon, but are much more filling because they have split peas or lentils in them, too. I think these would be lovely with a tomato sauce on top, but I also enjoyed the unusual lemon and sugar coating.
A recipe isn't totally necessary here, since nearly anything would taste good in grape leaves, in my opinion. But here it is, with all of my modifications.
Stuffed Grape Leaves
1 cup white rice
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup red wine
1 "Not Beef" bouillon cube
1/2 cup dried tomatoes (chopped if large)(dried apricots would also be good)
1/2 cup split peas or lentils
1 tsp. salt
1 cup chopped green onions
1/2 cup chopped fresh dill
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
Juice of 3 lemons
1/4 tsp. black pepper
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
50 (approx.) jarred grape leaves, rinsed
2 Tbsp. Earth Balance or olive oil
2 Tbsp. sugar
Start by cooking up some white rice and some split peas or lentils. For the rice, combine rice, water, red wine, bouillon and dried tomatoes in a saucepan, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until rice is tender- very slightly underdone is okay. Meanwhile, cover the split peas or lentils with water and simmer until tender. I used chora dal (split white lentils) and they were done about when the rice was. But depending on the legume you choose, it could take longer. Drain the lentils if needed.
In a large bowl, combine the cooked rice and lentils, salt, onions, fresh herbs, the juice of 2 of the lemons reserve one), pepper and cinnamon. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed before stuffing leaves.
Preheat oven to 350F. Prepare a 9 x11 inch glass baking dish by oiling lightly and placing 2 layers of flat grape leaves in the bottom.
Then take 2 grape leaves, overlapping, and place about 1-2 Tbsp. of filling on one end. Tuck in the sides of the leaves and roll towards you until the filling is sealed inside. Place stuffed leaves in the baking dish, seam down.
Once all the leaves are stuffed, dot the top with bits of Earth Balance or sprinkle with olive oil. Pour 1 1/2 cups of water over the leaves and cover with foil (or an oven safe lid, if you have one). Bake for 45 minutes at 350F.
Meanwhile, mix together the remaining lemon's juice with the sugar until dissolved. I know it sounds weird, but it's super good! The final dish doesn't taste sweet, the sugar just cuts the acid of the lemon slightly. Pull the grape leaves out of the oven after 45 min. and pour the sugar-lemon mixture over the top. Cover and return to the oven for another 20 minutes. Then the leaves should be tender and the liquid mostly absorbed.
I recommend serving with something. I didn't really plan out what to have as a side dish until I put these on the plate and realized how naked and boring it looked. I threw together a mildly Middle Eastern salad with olives and herbs. This would have been great with a really fun salad with pomegranate seeds and walnuts or something. Or some bread.
But for a quick snack, the leftovers are fantastic! I've eaten them cold out of the fridge for a very satisfying mini-meal. They've got grains, protein and greens all in one little package- pretty perfect. Also, I'm confident that you could prepare everything in advance and just do the baking later in the week for an easy meal.
On an altogether different note:
The pantry challenge of 2010 is over. I refilled my bulk jars (or at least many of them) today. I'm proud to say that I was able to empty nearly all of them and get them washed- so this end-of-year pantry eating is pretty practical for a fresh start in the new year. Now I'm pretty excited to have enough flours and nuts to do all the baking I want!!!