How to Make Grape Leaves like a Lebanese Grandmother

Meet Rouhiye.

How to make grape leaves like a Lebanese grandmother

Not only is she one of Garden Fresh’s veterans, she’s also a family friend and a culinary master of Middle-Eastern cuisine.

She moved next door to my grandmother in Highland Park, Michigan back in the fifties and they instantly became bosom buddies. Rouhiye taught her how to cook traditional Middle-Eastern cuisine using seasonal, fresh vegetables, canned tomatoes, spices she dries and grates herself and grape leaves she carefully picks during the peak season.

Following in my grandmother’s footsteps, I visited Rouhiye recently to learn how to make these delicate dolmas. She prepared my husband and I a dandelion salad, lima bean stew and Turkish-style coffee with fresh cardamom while we worked.

Dandelion Salad

I was impressed by her approach to cooking and how carefully she selects each ingredient, many of which come from her own garden. She cans her own tomatoes, preserves fresh-picked grape leaves in a salty brine, dries fresh spices and purifies butter. She gets her olive oil from her family’s land in Lebanon, her salsa and hummus from Garden Fresh and other ingredients from her favorite markets in Dearborn, Michigan.

Rouhiye prepares fresh meals daily for her family and she does so with care, purpose and love. You can taste it in every dish she makes and if I was a member of her household, I would surely be several pounds heavier. Rouhiye’s stuffed grape leaves are the best I’ve ever eaten, and I’ve had my fair share.

The evening was magical, preparing one of my favorite meals from scratch while sharing stories. We made both vegetarian and lamb grape leaves. My first few dolmas were loosely rolled, with rice poking out of tiny tears inflicted by inexperience. By the twentieth one, I was gaining speed and the grape leaves were looking tighter and finer.

To make a grape leaf like a Lebanese grandmother, center a spoonful of stuffing at the bottom of the leaf:

Recipe for traditional middle eastern lamb grape leaves

Fold the sides in:

Recipe for traditional middle eastern lamb grape leaves

Recipe for traditional middle eastern lamb grape leaves

And roll it up:

Recipe for traditional middle eastern lamb grape leaves

Stuffed Grape Leaves with Lamb & Rice & Jack’s Special Salsa

1 cup Uncle Ben’s Rice (uncooked)
1/4 lbs of butter
2 lbs of ground lamb
2 8-ounce cans of tomato sauce
1 pint of Garden Fresh Gourmet Jack’s Special Medium Salsa
2 tablespoons of salt
16 ounces of water
1 jar of grape leaves, rinsed and strained
2 pounds of lamb ribs
1 container of Garden Fresh Mediterranean Original Hummus

Mix all of the ingredients together by hand except for the lamb ribs, 1 can of tomato sauce, water and one tablespoon of salt. Place 3/4 tablespoon of the mixture on the upper inside of one grape leaf. Fold sides over and roll. Continue until the mixture is gone.

Place lamb ribs in the bottom of a large pot. Place rolled grape leaves in a row over the ribs. In a bowl, mix the other can of tomato sauce with water and the remaining salt. Pour over the grape leaves. Bring to a boil and immediately turn heat to love. Simmer for 1.5 hours.

Serve with Garden Fresh Mediterranean Original Hummus and enjoy!

Recipe for traditional middle eastern lamb grape leaves

Recipe for traditional middle eastern lamb grape leaves

  • Susan M. Phillips

    I have had the pleasure of knowing Rouhiye for the last five years. Not only is she an amazing cook, her kindness and dedication to her work and family are unmatched. This woman is an inspiration to me and I love her dearly!

  • Moe Δbbass

    OMG she’s my grandmother <3 Love you sito!!