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Grape Leaves, Syrian Stuffed - meat

Posted by : Karen Selwyn

The recipe which follows is a family recipe from Lisa Ades, a
documantary filmmaker.  The recipe appeared in an article about Jewish-
Syrian cooking in the December '97 SAVEUR magazine.

The article contains the following information about the Jewish
population and cooking in the city of Aleppo, Syria.

"By the 19th century, the Jewish community in Aleppo comprised three
groups: the indigenous population, resident in Syria since biblical
times; Sephardic Jews who had settled in the area after fleeing the
spanish Inquisition; and a few Ashkenazic Jews who had arrived as
traders and stayed.

So many culinary forces are at work in this region that it's difficult
to disentangle "pure" Jewish cooking from Syrian food generally.  Still,
certain dishes appear to have a Jewish provenance, like bulgur wheat salad
called bazargan, kibbeh pie, and hamud, sour spearmint sauce with meatballs. 
Beyond individual dishes, there's a distinctly Jewish way of flavoring: sweet
with sour and meat with fruit."

Karen Selwyn

*   *   *   *   *   *   *

Syrian Stuffed Grape Leaves

Syrian grape leaves differ from their Middle Eastern counterparts
because of their sweet and sour flavoring.

2 tablespoons tamarind concentrate
4 tablespoons light brown sugar
2-4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice 
salt
8 oz. dried apricot halves
1 lb. gound beef
1 cup long-grain rice
1 tablespoon ground allspice
1 (8 oz.) jar of grape leaves, leaves drained and rinsed

Combine tamarind with 4 cups hot water in a medium bowl.  Mix well, then add 2
tablespoons sugar, lemon juice and a pinch salt.  Set aside.

Place apricots in a small bowl.  Cover with hot water and set aside to
soften for 10 minutes.  

Combine ground beef, rice, allspice, 1/2 cup water and 1 tablespoon salt in a
large bowl.  Mix well.  

Drain apricots and set aside.

To assemble, lay a grape leaf, stem towards you, vein side up on a clean
surface.  Pinch off the stem, then spoon about 1 tablespoon beef mixture into
the center.  Fold in sides and roll from the stem edge towards outer edge of
leaf, forming a cylinder about 2 1/2 inches long.  Grape leaves should be
rolled tightly enough to hold their shape, but loosely enough to allow rice to
expand.  Repeat process until all leaves and stuffing have been used up.  

Place a layer of stuffed leaves in an oiled 2-quart flamepoof baking
dish.  Arrange half the apricots on top.  Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon
suagar. Cover with another layer of grape leaves.  Use up the remaining
apricots to cover and sprinkle with the last tablespoon sugar.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Pour tamarind mixture over grape
leaves (liquid should just cover them).  Cover, then simmer slowly on
top of the stove over low heat for 45 minutes.  Transfer baking dish to
the oven and bake an additional 45 minutes.  

Serve warm, moistened with cooking juices.

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