Prep time: 20 minutes
Prep notes: the bulk of the prep time is picking the grape leaves
Cooking time: 45 minutes
Yields: 6 people
40 grape leaves
6 sprigs of fresh mint
2 cups of jasmine rice
1/4 cup dried chopped onion (3/4 cup fresh, finely diced)
4 large cloves garlic, diced
4 tbsp of olive oil
1 cup of pignoli nuts
the juice of 2 lemons
salt to taste
Wild grapes grow all over the state and now is the perfect time to harvest the tender young leaves. The best leaves to harvest are usually the 3 and 4th leaves from the tip of the vine, these leaves are slightly yellow,soft, and slightly fuzzy feeling in comparison to the darker more leathery ones. Using a pair of scissors cut the leaf at the juncture of the stem.
Cook the rice in 4 cups of water, while the rice is cooking blend the pignoli nuts, garlic, ½ the oil and ½ the mint in a blender pulse until diced add the rest of the mint and pulse again so that the remainder of the mint is at a course chop. When rice is finished add the diced mixture as well as the rest of the ingredients mix with a spoon until the rice is sticky; the residual heat in the rice will cook the garlic.
In a pot create a brine consisting of 4 cups of water, 1 cup of white vinegar, and 1 tsp of salt, and 4 whole peppercorns over medium high heat. When the brine is boiling, place the leaves in the pot, cook 5 minutes. Shut off the water and let the leaves remain in the water for another 5 minutes. Remove the leaves and place on a plate to wrap.
When the rice is cool start stuffing the leaves by laying a leaf out with the underside facing up and the base closest to you, place aprox 4"x3/4" portion of rice on the stem base and roll once and then fold in the sides and continue the roll until complete, repeat until all leaves are filled. Drizzle with olive oil and a little of the brine so they won't dry out. Serve immediately or let marinate in the fridge overnight.