Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Other Grape Leaves - Yebret

When most people hear grape leaves, they tend to think of Greek Dolma, a grape leaf stuffed with tomato based rice and spices. When I ask for grape leaves, I ask if there is meat inside of them. So far the only place I have found them at a restaurant is in Tucson at Shishkabab House. Luckily, I have been fortunate enough to learn how to make Syrian Grape Leaves, or Yebret, enough times that I am able to recall the recipe and share. They are stuffed with meat and rice - I use lamb, because I think it has more flavor, but have also made with ground beef, chicken, and turkey. Yes, they are ordered in preference.


1 jar Grape Leaves
1 lb Ground Lamb
1 tbsp Allspice
1 cup Long Grain Rice
2 tbsp Pine Nuts
3 cups Water
3/4 cup Lemon Juice
6 or 7 Garlic Cloves

In a bowl, combine the lamb, allspice, rice, and pine nuts.

Drain the grape leaves from jar and place them on a plate. Some grape leaves will still have the stem on them, cut them off as you are folding the yebret.

Unfold a grape leave on a cutting board, veiny side up. At the base of the leaf, place about 1 tbsp of lamb mixture. Squish the meat down so it makes a long rectangle at the base of the leaf. Begin to roll the base of the leaf towards the top of the leaf, folding in both sides, and tightly roll until you get a little grape leaf shaped cigar. Continue until you run out of meat.

Chances are you'll probably have extra grape leaves. Line the bottom of the pot you intend to cook the yebret in with the extra grape leaves - this will prevent burning of your yebret. I use a 5.5 qt skillet and usually end up with a single layer of yebret. Add the water and lemon juice. Then sprinkle the garlic cloves on top. Find a plate that will fit inside your skillet and use that to hold down the yebret. Place lid on top of the skillet.

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for about 25 minutes and then turn off the heat. Let the yebret sit for at least 30 minutes, but the longer you leave them be the better the taste seems to be!

I like to serve them warm with a garlic yogurt as a dipping sauce. It's very simple, just requires time to chill and bring out the garlic flavor:

Garlic Yogurt
Plain Yogurt (or Greek Yogurt if you like thicker)
Pressed Garlic, to liking.

Mix together and store in the refrigerator before use. I like to keep in the fridge for at least 6 hours. The longer you let it sit, the stronger the flavor will be.

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