Syrian Stuffed Grape Leaves

Published March 16, 2018

The Middle East is known for its grape leaves, but our Aleppo grandparents prided themselves on our Syrian Stuffed Grape Leaves! Once our grandparents emigrated to America, they were sure to plant a grapevine. In fact, in Syrian households, our grapevines were always a part of our yards. Even if we chanced to find some wild grape leaves growing somewhere, Sitto would urge us all to stop and pick them. This was one of our favorite dishes and all we ever needed were these fresh vine leaves.

Years ago, I do remember that Sitto would pick those young light green leaves daily. She explained that the newer ones were less “vein-y” and would give us a more tender roll. She would par-boil them for just a minute or so and then squeeze them of excess water, stack and roll them and tie them with string. She’d keep them brined in her pottery jars. In those days, Sitto’s wonderful pantry left us unconcerned when the weather turned cold!

Sometimes, she’d ask me to bring her a roll of those leaves, neatly tied and ready to be rinsed and filled with her spiced ground lamb and rice mixture. Then we’d all sit around the kitchen table and learned how to fill and roll them. Even as youngsters, we became adept, with Sitto alongside coaching us. She’d tell us in Arabic, “roll them tight!” And if we failed, she’d open the roll and show us again. It was a real family time in that warm and cozy kitchen. A few hours later, the scent of simmering garlic and lemon, with a hint of her homegrown mint would urge us back into the kitchen again. This was one of our most favored meals and we seldom had to be called for dinner!

Try Sitto’s Stuffed Grape Leaves on page 97 of Sitto’s Kitchen II Cookbook!