Saturday, April 12, 2014

Grape leaves stuffed with brown rice: A healthy choice you can enjoy without getting all mushy


Brown rice-stuffed grape leaves
Looks can be deceiving, or in this case just not very revealing. 

What you see are stuffed grape leaves, but what you can’t see is what’s inside. It’s always a challenge to pick one up without knowing what you’re about to bite into. 

For me, the unhappiest surprise is mushy rice. 

It’s one of the hazards of restaurant dining. We’ve also made the mistake of sampling the canned variety, as well as those floppy wraps of mysterious origin on the deli bar at the grocery store. 

But things can get a bit squishy even in our own kitchen, especially when Robyn leaves me unsupervised.  (You think she'd know better by now!)

My own preference is for bulgur stuffing, but I find it works best when served hot. For a cold appetizer, I do like rice but I sometimes get tripped up when the leaves are a bit tough and need more cooking time than the rice does. Result: Ugh.

I decided to try brown rice, which is healthy stuff. It has plenty of extra body but it takes quite a while longer to cook. My solution was so-called instant brown rice, which isn’t really instant but is definitely quicker cooking. 

The leaves and rice seemed quite happy simmering together for half an hour. Both had just the right bite, and they remained that way the next day at appetizer time. 

I’ve heard lots of  other tricks, and I bet you know a few. If you have a tip, please pass it along so we can give it a try. I promise to eat as many as I have to.

Brown rice stuffing for two dozen grape leaves
Ingredients:
2-1/2 cups quick-cooking brown rice (more or less)
1/2 cup olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
Pine nuts to taste (about 1/4 cup or so)
Salt and pepper to taste
Juice of one large lemon 

Directions:
1. Saute the chopped onion in enough of the olive oil to cover.When the onion begins to soften, add the pine nuts. Cook until the onion and pine nuts begin to brown. Remove from heat, and allow to cool slightly.
2. Place the uncooked brown rice in a large mixing bowl.
3. Add the slightly cooled onion mixture to the rice. Add the lemon juice and remaining olive oil to the bowl and mix.
4. Add salt and pepper to taste.
5. Cook as usual for ½ hour.

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