Greek food writer and journalist Aglaia Kremezi is known as the 'Greek Grandmother' and she made vegetarian grape leaves from her cookbook Mediterranean Vegetarian Feasts.
Recipe for Grape Leaves Stuffed with Rice, Tomatoes, and Pomegranate Molasses
1 cup olive oil
1 ½ cups medium- grain rice, such as Arborio
¼ cup pine nuts
½ teaspoon ground allspice
5 tablespoons pomegranate molasses 1 teaspoon sea salt, or more to taste
1 to 1 ½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper to taste 3 ½ cups finely chopped onions
2 cinnamon sticks
2 ½ cups grated ripe tomatoes (about 1 ½ pounds) or 2 ½ cups canned diced tomatoes with their juices
1 ½ cups chopped fresh mint, plus a handful of leaves for lining the pan 1 teaspoon dried mint
2 ½ cups finely chopped fresh flat--‐leaf parsley 2 large or 3 medium potatoes, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
¼ to 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice, to taste Labne or Greek--‐style yogurt, for serving
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Carefully separate the grape leaves and blanch them, in batches, for about 1 minute. (If using leaves from a jar, rinse them well with boiling water.) Rinse with cold water and spread the leaves carefully on a towel.
Heat ½ cup of the olive oil in a deep skillet or sauté pan over medium--‐high heat. Add the rice and sauté for 5 minutes. Add the pine nuts and continue to sauté for 3 minutes more, or until the rice and pine nuts turn a light golden color. Be careful not to let the pine nuts burn. Remove from the heat. Place a sieve over a large bowl and transfer the rice and pine nuts to drain for a few seconds. Pour the oil from the bowl back into the skillet and transfer the rice and pine nuts to the bowl. Add the allspice, pomegranate molasses, and salt and pepper to taste to the bowl and toss to mix.
Reheat the oil in the skillet over medium heat, add the onions and cinnamon, and sauté for about 6 minutes, until the onions soften. Discard the cinnamon sticks and transfer the onions to the bowl with the rice, adding 1 ½ cups of the tomatoes (with juice), the fresh mint, the dried mint (if using), and the parsley. Toss well to mix.
Line the bottom of a pot with any smaller and/or torn grape leaves, add the potato slices to cover the bottom, and scatter the garlic cloves and mint leaves over the potatoes.
Place a large grape leaf, shiny side down, on your work surface, with the stem toward you. Cut off the stem with scissors. Place about 2 teaspoons of the filling in a vertical line near the stem. Fold the two adjacent sides of the leaf over the filling, then begin to fold and roll from the bottom. Roll up the leaf like a cigar, not too tightly, making sure to bring the side edges in as you roll up from the bottom. This will create a neat package. Place the stuffed leaf, seam side down, in the pot. Continue with the remaining leaves, placing the stuffed grape leaves tightly next to each other in the pot. When the bottom of the pot is full, make a second layer.
Pour 1 cup water, the remaining ½ cup olive oil, remaining 1 cup tomatoes (with juice), and ¼ cup lemon juice over the stuffed leaves. The liquid should almost cover them; if it does not, add a little more water. Place an inverted heatproof plate over the stuffed leaves to keep them from rising and unrolling as they cook. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 40 minutes, or until the rice is cooked. To check, remove one stuffed leaf and taste. When cooked, remove from the heat.
Let the stuffed grape leaves cool in the pot and then carefully transfer them to a serving platter. The potatoes at the bottom are delicious; I suggest you eat them while still warm.
If you can, refrigerate the stuffed leaves overnight. To serve, bring to room temperature and serve drizzled with fresh lemon accompanied by labne, if you like.