5 Ways to Cook with Grape Leaves
We’ve got leaves on the brain. But not just any leaves—broad, flexible and tender Sultana grape leaves from Halkidiki, Greece. Packed in a simple brine of sea salt, water and citric acid, these fruity and tangy grape leaves are probably best known for making dolmades, where they’re used as a wrapping for rice and herbs. But these leaves are more versatile than they get credit for: Swap them in for any recipe that calls for cabbage or Swiss chard as a wrapping, slice and toss them into salads and pilafs and even add them to savory pastries. When cooked, the leaves act like a sponge, absorbing all the delicious flavors they are next to. They’re good for you, too—grape leaves are packed with calcium, iron, potassium and lots of antioxidants. From Market Hall Foods Retail Director and culinary maven Juliana Uruburu, here are five more ways to cook with these grape vine leaves.
1. Grape Leaf-Wrapped Grilled Feta
To wrap the feta, first fold up the bottom two lobes of the leaf, then fold in the side lobes. Finally, fold down the top lobe creating a bundle. Repeat with a second leaf, seam side down to secure the bundle. Tie a piece of kitchen twine around it to help it stay sealed. Brush with olive oil and place the wrapped block on the grill over indirect heat, flipping once or twice for even heating.
The result is a warmed, pillowy, but not melted feta that has absorbed bright and earthy aromatics from the spices and the leaves. Snip off the twine, unfold the leaf and scoop up the warmed feta with grilled bread, pita chips, or sliced bell peppers and carrots.
First, rinse your grape leaf, remove the stem (for a tighter wrap) and pat dry. While it dries, wrap a disc of fresh goat cheese in paper-thin slices of pancetta. Once the cheese is enveloped with the cured meat, wrap the disc again in your prepared grape leaf. Sauté the disc in olive oil over medium heat until tender and aromatic, flipping the coin once to help render the pancetta on both sides. The flavor of the rendered pancetta will start to mingle with the citrusy goat cheese and tangy grape leaves. This makes a great appetizer. Use a knife and fork to cut through the disc and smear across crisp crostini.
Hearty fish such as halibut, cod or salmon are wonderful choices for wrapping in grape leaves. First, remove the bones and skin from the fillet. Saute sliced shallots until translucent, then add chopped Swiss chard and golden raisins for an earthy meets sweet flavor. Once the mixture is wilted and well-combined, set it aside to cool.
Lay down a grape leaf and place the fillet in the center, topping each piece of fish with the shallot and chard mixture. To wrap the fillet in the leaves, fold in the side lobes and fold down the top of the leaf forming a tight parcel. Arrange them seam side down in a steamer basket and steam on a low simmer until the fish is tender and cooked through. This is a great opportunity to have fun with your steaming liquid—add lemon zest, fresh herbs, spices or white wine to impart extra flavor. We love to serve this dish with a yogurt-tahini-lemon sauce.
Inspired by Eastern European cabbage rolls, this recipe swaps in Sultana grape leaves and classic Greek flavors. Brown ground lamb and mix the meat with cumin and toasted pine nuts. You can add in cooked rice to make the ground lamb go farther. Wrap the spiced lamb mixture in the grape leaves, forming cigars similar to dolmades. Then simmer the cigars in a big pot of tomato sauce spiked with lots of oregano.
For a fresh twist to spanakopita, a Greek spinach and feta pie, add in grape leaves. Follow your favorite spanakopita recipe and swap in half of the spinach for minced grape leaves. The grape leaves will enhance the tang of the feta making this version of spanakopita lighter and brighter than its all-spinach cousin.