These vegetarian stuffed grape leaves (yalanchi aka sarma) are Mediterranean favorites! With a vibrant herb and lemon-infused rice filling, they are perfect as appetizers, snacks, or even part of a meze platter.
1 ½cupsfinely chopped fresh Italian parsley(use a food processor)
½cupfinely chopped fresh dill(use a food processor)
½ cup plus 1 tablespoonfresh lemon juice
Kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper, and hot red pepper
1cupwater,or as needed
Lemon slicesfor garnish
Rinse the grape leaves in running water and remove stems. Set aside.
To prepare the filling, in a medium pot over medium heat, sauté the onions in the olive oil for about 5 minutes, until softened. Stir in the rice, and cook for 5 minutes longer. Remove from the heat and add the tomato paste, parsley, dill, sugar, lemon juice, and season to taste with salt, pepper, and hot red pepper. Allow the mixture to cool before stuffing the grape leaves.
Preheat the oven to 350°F, and arrange the rack in the bottom third of the oven.
When the filling has cooled, lay the grape leaves with the underneath-side (the less smooth side with the visible veins) facing up, and place about 1 tablespoon of filling (or more depending on the size of the leaves) along the stem end of each leaf, fold over the sides, and roll from the stem up to form a sausage-like roll. Repeat with the remaining grape leaves. (If you have leftover filling, you can stuff bell peppers with it and cook it with the yalanchi.)
Arrange the yalanchi in a 9-inch square baking dish, lining them up 2 layers high. If you have extra unwrapped grape leaves, lay them across the top of the others. This will prevent the yalanchi from getting too dry or dark when baked. Pour water over the top to just cover the grape leaves.
Cover the pan with parchment paper, and then a layer of foil. Place in the oven and bake for about 1 ½ hours, or until the rice is puffed up and cooked through (taste one to be sure!). Remove the foil, but leave the parchment paper on it while it cools completely (this will prevent the top from drying out). After it cools to room temperature, cover and refrigerate until cold.
Serve cold, garnished with lemon slices. This dish is best prepared a day ahead, covered, and refrigerated until ready to serve.
If you have different sizes of grape leaves (in your jar or from your own picking/canning) use the larger grape leaves for these yalanchi. Save the small ones for making dolma!
If you plan to multiply this recipe, I recommend baking it a couple of smaller pans rather than a single large pan. I find that when baking this in a very large pan sometimes the yalanchi cooks unevenly (the ones in the middle don't cook as fast as the ones on the edges).
A food processor saves a lot of time. Use it to chop your herbs, transfer chopped herbs to a bowl, and then (without even washing it out) chop your onions. It’s fine if your onions have a bit of herb residue in them. They will all be cooking together eventually anyway.