Me and Talya Enriquez (right) in NYC
Love stuffed grape leaves – in Hebrew, they are “alei gefen” (literally grape leaves) but in Turkey, they are called “Yaprak.” My friend Talya (above right) hails from Izmir Turkey, where her mother Sarah makes the most incredible food. On the last day of my visit there, she made a whole new batch for me – simply delish. Sarah and a group of women in the Izmir Jewish community put together (unfortunately for me, in Turkish) a Jewish Turkish recipe book. We’ll work on Talya to do some translating.
Jenny Goldstein (left), who met Talya while living in Izmir for a year working with the Jewish community.
In the meantime, I’ve included a recipe below from a great book, Mathew Goodman’s, Jewish Food: The World at the Table:
Stuffed grape leaves are enormously popular throughout Turkey, Greece, and the Middle East. When filled with ground beef or lamb, they are served hot; filled with rice, they are served cold and make a favorite Sabbath dish. (Yaprak is the Turkish word for leaf, which is also the derivation of the name prakkes, as stuffed cabbage is known in the Ukraine.)
I’ve adapted this recipe from one made by Jenny Edelstein of Miami, who was born in Havana and came to the United States in 1963; like many of the Jews of Cuba, her family has Turkish roots. These stuffed grape leaves taste even better when eaten the day after they are made.
MAKES ABOUT 32
8 ounces brine-packed grape leaves
FOR THE FILLING
1 cup long-grain white rice
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 onions, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Freshly ground black pepper
FOR THE COOKING LIQUID
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup water
Juice of 2 lemons
Juice of 2 limes
1. Drain the grape leaves, rinse well, and pat dry.
2. For the filling: Place the rice in a bowl of cold water. Soak for 30 minutes. Drain.
3. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring often, until soft and lightly colored. Add the rice and cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes. Place in a medium bowl and combine with the mint and parsley. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside and let cool.
4. Place a grape leaf, shiny side down and with the stem end facing you, on a clean surface. Place about 2 teaspoons of the filling near the stem end. Fold this end up and over the filling, then pinch in the two sides toward the center and loosely roll up the leaf like a cigar, tucking in any wide parts of the leaf and loose ends. (Do not roll the leaf too tightly, because the rice expands somewhat during cooking.) Repeat until all of the filling has been used.
5. Line a Dutch oven or other large, heavy pot with the remaining loose grape leaves. Pack the stuffed grape leaves, seam sides down, in one layer over the bottom of the pot, then place any remaining stuffed leaves in a second layer on top.
6. For the cooking liquid: In a medium bowl, whisk together the oil, water, lemon juice, and lime juice.
7. Pour the cooking liquid over the stuffed grape leaves. Cover and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Lower the heat and simmer gently, covered, until the filling is fully cooked, about 45 minutes. Let the stuffed leaves cool in the pan, then transfer them to a large serving platter. Serve at room temperature.