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Goat Cheese, Fig & Walnut Stuffed Grape Leaves

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Goat Cheese, Fig & Walnut Stuffed Grape Leaves, Honest Fare by Gabrielle Arnold

I was a curious freshman in college the first time I ate a stuffed grape leaf at this tiny Middle Eastern place called the Falafel Café. Though I hadn’t ventured all that far geographically (Falafel Café was directly across the street from the university), the idea of eating a grape leaf felt really foreign to me. I had just accepted seaweed rolled around fish and rice, and now this whole grape leaf thing? Oh the adventures of college. I remember that it took me a while to even make the connection that a grape leaf was quite literally, a leaf. Like, from a grape vine. A real mind blower.

These days stuffed grape leaves are a favorite whenever I go for Greek or Middle Eastern food. They’re prepared differently depending on the region—with meat, without meat…with pine nuts, without pine nuts…warm or cold….etc. And I thought I had tasted the gamut of stuffed grape leaves until our friends Ryan and Cole presented me grape leaves stuffed with cheese and dried fruit!

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It was the last thing I expected from Cole, who has a Lebanese background and big-hearted father who has made us traditional meat and rice stuffed grape leaves on many occasions.

Ryan and Cole prepared these risky grape leaves with dates and Gorgonzola as well as dates and goat cheese. I do like the date combinations a lot, but happened to like dried figs and goat cheese a lot too and thought some crunch would be nice so I added the walnuts. I recommend you try it both ways.

Grape leaves are sold like pickles are in large jars filled with brine. But unlike pickles, grape leaves are in a very mild brine of just salt and water, which only serves to preserve their freshness. You should be able to find them in the international isle of your grocery store or health foods store. Better yet, seek out a Middle Eastern market and pick up some fresh pita bread while you’re at it.

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These are so easy to make. I love things that are assembly only.
How to:
1. Remove the leaf from the jar and lay flat. Shake off some of that excess water, but don’t worry about drying them off.
2. Cut your dried figs in half and spoon a teaspoon of goat cheese on or in to them and top the goat cheese with a couple walnuts.
3. Lay a grape leaf flat and place the fig at the base where the stem would be. Fold in the corners and roll. Fold in the corners and roll again. It will take a couple tries before they start to come together right, but don’t get discouraged you’ll get it.
4. They are great eaten at room temp or cold out of the fridge, but I chose to bake them for a few minutes so the cheese would be warm.
5. Squeeze a little lemon juice over them right before serving.

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These things are amazing!

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Recipe

Grape leaves often come prepared and jarred. If you happen to get fresh grape leaves, make sure to steam them first before stuffing. These are basically assembly only. Baking at the end is optional. The directions below are for the fig and goat cheese and walnut option but follow the same general procedure if you make them with Gorgonzola and dates.

You need:

  • Goat or Gorgonzola cheese
  • Dried figs or dates
  • Prepared grape leaves
  • Walnuts
  • Fresh lemon juice (1/2 a lemon)

Directions

  1. Remove the leaf from the jar and lay flat. Shake off some of that excess water, but don’t worry about drying them off.
  2. Cut your dried figs in half and spoon a teaspoon of goat cheese on or in to them and top the goat cheese with a couple walnuts.
  3. Place a grape leaf flat and place the fig at the base where the stem would be. Fold in the corners and roll. Fold in the corners and roll again. It will take a couple tries before they start to come together right, but don’t get discouraged you’ll get it.
  4. They are great eaten at room temp or cold out of the fridge, but I chose to bake them for a few minutes so the cheese would be warm.Squeeze a little lemon juice over them right before serving!

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