By Freya Bellin
There’s a whole subset of foods that I would normally be hesitant to make at home because they sound too complicated or too messy. And until this past weekend, stuffed grape leaves would have fallen into this category. Yet, as it turns out, grape leaves—or chard leaves in this case—are pretty easy to make yourself.
I was totally impressed by the filling in this recipe. As I often find with the vegetable side dishes or fillings in this book, I couldn’t resist just eating it straight from the mixing bowl. The tabbouleh is herby and fresh, and I added raisins and walnuts for extra flavor and texture. I highly recommend that addition, especially if you’re accustomed to sweet dolmades. You could also substitute Quinoa Tabbouleh for the filling if you prefer quinoa to bulgur.
The next piece of this recipe is part arts and crafts project. The chard leaves become surprisingly pliable yet sturdy once shocked, and they’re pretty easy to work with. It took me a few tries to master the rolling, but once I got the hang of it they started to look quite professional. It’s tough to take a clean bite of the final product, but the leaves become softer and easier to bite into on day 2, probably due to the acidity of the lemon juice. You may experiment with coating the leaves with extra juice or olive oil to soften them. Needless to say, they take well to being made in advance, and you still end up with an impressive-looking, delicious new take on a classic. Recipe from The Food Matters Cookbook.
Tabbouleh-Stuffed Chard Leaves
Makes: 4 to 8 servings
Time: About 1 hour
A new take on Greek dolmades, grape leaves which are usually stuffed with rice and meat or lentils. This version is easy enough to be part of any Mediterranean- style spread, since the herb-based stuffing comes together in minutes and requires no cooking.
If chard is unavailable (or tired looking), use kale, cabbage, or large spinach leaves (you’ll need more of these though). Or, to save even more time, use grape leaves, sold in jars in most supermarkets. A variety of other grains (barley, farro, wheat berries) and grain salads also make good fillings for this recipe. These are delicious alone, but fresh tomato sauce makes a really nice accompaniment for dipping.
1⁄2 cup bulgur
1⁄3 cup olive oil, or more as needed
1⁄4 cup lemon juice, or to taste
12 to 16 whole chard leaves, any size
2 cups chopped fresh parsley
1 cup roughly chopped fresh mint
1⁄2 cup chopped scallions or red onion
1. Soak the bulgur in hot water to cover until tender, 15 to 30 minutes. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it. Have a large bowl of ice water handy. Drain the bulgur, then squeeze out as much of the water as possible. Toss with the oil and lemon juice and season to taste.
2. Put half of the chard in the boiling water and count to 20 or so. When they’re just pliable, carefully fish the leaves out and immediately plunge in the ice water. Repeat with the remaining leaves. When cool, drain. Carefully remove the toughest part of each chard stem by cutting close along either side of it (scissors are good for this), chop them, and add them to the bowl of bulgur.
3. Add the parsley, mint, and scallions to the bulgur and toss gently. Sprinkle with salt and pepper; taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
4. On a clean towel, lay one of the leaves in front of you and bring together the cut center of the leaf so the sides overlap a bit, closing the gap. Put a couple tablespoons of the tabbouleh on top of that seam (more if the leaves are large) and roll the leaf about a third of the way up; fold in both ends to enclose the filling like you would a burrito and then roll up the entire leaf. Put each stuffed leaf, seam side down, on a serving plate. Repeat with the remaining leaves and serve with lemon wedges.
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