This classic Mediterranean dish makes a great party hors d'oeuvre. Brined flavor comes from both the grape leaves and the salty feta cheese.
42 bottled large grape leaves (about 6 ounces)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 1/2 cups minced yellow onion (about 1 medium)
1 cup thinly sliced green onions (about 1 bunch)
1/3 cup sliced almonds, chopped
3 cups water, divided
3/4 cup uncooked long-grain rice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup (4 ounces) crumbled feta cheese
3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, divided
Lemon wedges (optional)
Fat-free Greek-style plain yogurt (optional)
How to Make It
Rinse grape leaves with cold water; drain well. Pat dry with paper towels. Remove stems; discard.
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add yellow onion to pan; cook 10 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Add green onions and almonds; cook 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in 2 cups water; bring to a boil. Add rice, salt, pepper, and cinnamon; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 22 minutes or until rice is tender. Remove from heat; cool. Stir in cheese, parsley, mint, and dill.
Spoon 1 1/2 heaping tablespoons rice mixture onto center of 1 grape leaf. Bring 2 opposite points of leaf to center; fold over filling. Beginning at 1 short side, roll up leaf tightly, jelly-roll fashion. Repeat procedure with remaining rice mixture and 35 grape leaves. Place 12 stuffed grape leaves, seam sides down, in large saucepan lined with 3 grape leaves. Drizzle with 1 teaspoon oil and 1 tablespoon juice. Top with 12 stuffed grape leaves; drizzle with 1 teaspoon oil and 1 tablespoon juice. Repeat procedure with remaining 12 stuffed grape leaves, 1 teaspoon oil, and 1 tablespoon juice. Cover with remaining 3 grape leaves; pour remaining 1 cup water over leaves. Invert a small heatproof plate on top of leaves. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 1 1/2 hours. Remove from heat, and let stand in saucepan 2 hours. Serve at room temperature with lemon wedges and yogurt, if desired.
Wine note: The piquant quality of grape leaves calls for a wine with good acidity to match, while the salty feta needs something thirst-quenching and bright. Boutari Santorini 2008 ($18) is a natural choice. --Jeffery Lindenmuth