STUFFED GRAPE LEAVES / For Goodness Sake
50 fresh grape leaves or 1 jar (16 ounces) brined grape leaves, rinsed
3 large onions, finely chopped
5 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup olive oil
1 cup pine nuts, toasted
1 ½ cups uncooked short-grain rice
1 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
½ cup chopped fresh dill
½ cup chopped fresh mint
juice of 2 lemons
1 lemon, sliced
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1. If using fresh grape leaves, blanch them briefly in boiling water, then plunge them into an ice-water water bath. Drain and pat dry.
2. Sauté the onions and garlic in olive oil until soft.
3. In a large bowl, combine the onions, garlic, toasted pine nuts, rice, parsley, dill, mint, lemon juice, salt, and pepper.
4. Oil the bottom of a large, heavy pot with cooking spray. Then cover the bottom of the pot with a layer of unstuffed grape leaves.
5. On a flat surface, lay out the grape leaves with the stems toward you and the underside of the leaves facing up (veins are raised on the underside). Trim off the bottom of each stem.
6. Place a tablespoon of the mixture from step 3 in the center of each leaf. Fold one side over the filling, then the other side, then roll up the leaf from the bottom toward the top. Repeat.
7. Arrange the rolled leaves, seam side down, in the pot in layers. Pack the stuffed leaves tightly to help keep them from floating and unrolling while they cook. (Demos are available online.)
8. Pour ½ cup olive oil over grape leaves. Place lemon slices on top. Choose a plate slightly smaller than the circumference of the pot to cover the leaves and keep them submerged; then add enough water to cover by approximately an inch.
9. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and cover the pot, keeping the plate in place.
10. Simmer for approximately an hour or until the rice is cooked and leaves are tender.