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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Turkey & Quinoa Stuffed Grape Leaves

Stuffed Grape Leaves is a delectable dish that is you've probably seen at Greek restaurants but never thought of making at home. They typically contains some variation of a meat and rice filling rolled inside a grape leaf. The recipe that I made uses ground turkey and quinoa for healthier not mention tastier variation.  I actually saw the recipe in Eating Well magazine over a year ago and saved it to possibly make in the future. I thought it looked delicious but wasn't sure if the recipe would be  too complicated or time consuming to make. Luckily, I finally tried out the recipe this weekend and the stuffed grape leaves were absolutely amazing. The process really isn't challenging at all, you just need to plan ahead and have a little extra time. This is the perfect type of recipe to make on the weekend or when you have someone to cook with you. The recipe is a little lengthy but it can be summarized as: (1) boil the grape leaves so that they are pliable for rolling, (2) stir together the filling, (3)scoop the filling into the grape leaves and roll up tightly, and (5) place the stuffed leaves in a large pot and boil until the filling is cooked through. Also, if you're not interested in making the full recipe (about 50 grape leaves), it works really well to simply cut the recipe in half (that's what I did since I was only making them for a few people). For a main course serving, 6-7 stuffed grapes leaves per person is more than enough.

Turkey & Quinoa Stuffed Grape Leaves
Makes 45-55 stuffed grape leaves
Active Time: 1 1/2 hours
Total Time: 2 1/2 hours

1 15- to 16-ounce jar grape leaves*, drained
1 pound extra lean ground turkey
1 cup quinoa
1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes (not packed in oil), reconstituted and finely chopped
1/4 cup Greek olives, finely chopped
Zest of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, minced
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried marjoram leaves
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
4 tablespoons lemon juice

1. Bring a large saucepan of water to boil.

2. Meanwhile, carefully remove grape leaves from the jar and unroll. Separate into two piles—one of whole leaves and one with any torn leaves or pieces of leaves. (The whole leaves will be used for rolling. Set aside the torn leaves for Step 6)

3. Place the whole grape leaves in the boiling water and cook for 5 minutes; transfer with tongs to a colander to drain.

4. Next, to prepare filling: Combine turkey, quinoa, sun-dried tomatoes, olives, lemon zest, rosemary, oregano, marjoram, salt and pepper in a large bowl.

5. Then, to assemble the grape leaves: Lay a clean kitchen towel on a work surface. Place 4 to 6 whole grape leaves at a time on the towel with the stem-side up and stem end pointing toward you. Pinch or trim off any long or tough stems. Depending on the size of the leaf, shape 2 teaspoons to 1 tablespoon of the filling into a 1 1/2- to 2-inch log and place it on the leaf, perpendicular to the stem end. Roll the end of the leaf over the filling, tuck in the sides and roll tightly into a cigar shape. Repeat with the remaining grape leaves and filling. (You may have filling or grape leaves left over.)

6. Place the torn or very small leftover grape leaves in a separate large saucepan covering the bottom completely; this will prevent the stuffed leaves from sticking as they cook.

7. Place about half of the stuffed grape leaves in one tight layer in the saucepan and drizzle with 2 tablespoons lemon juice. Make a second layer of grape leaves on top of the first and drizzle with the remaining 2 tablespoons lemon juice.**

8. Place the largest heatproof plate you have that will fit in the pot on top of the grape leaves. Next, place a small-to-medium heatproof bowl on top of the plate and fill it three-quarters full with water (this will act as a weight to keep the grape leaves submerged).

9. Add water to the saucepan until it reaches the rim of the plate.

10. Bring water to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook until the quinoa is tender, adding water as necessary to keep the grape leaves submerged, about 45 minutes. (To check if the quinoa is done, carefully remove the bowl and plate, take out one stuffed grape leaf using a slotted spoon and cut it open.)

11. Once you have tested one stuffed grape leaf that is cooked through, transfer the remaining grape leaves from the water using a slotted spoon.

Nutrition Information--approximately 30 calories per stuffed grape leaf

Make Ahead Tip: Cover and refrigerate cooked stuffed grape leaves for up to 3 days. Reheat with a little water in a skillet or in the microwave.

*Jars of grape leaves can be found with other Middle Eastern ingredients in large supermarkets, Middle Eastern markets, natural-foods stores or online at If you only use part of a jar, you can freeze the leftover leaves in an airtight container for up to 6 months.

**How to Arrange Stuffed Grape Leaves in the Pan: The stuffed grape leaves should be tightly packed in your saucepan to prevent them from floating up and unwrapping during cooking. Working with about half of the stuffed grape leaves, nestle them into your pan in concentric circles, working from the outer edge toward the center. Make a second layer directly on top of the first with the remaining stuffed grape leaves.

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