to Marie who wanted to know how to prepare fresh grape leaves:
My Lebanese mother in law always used her own grape leaves which she froze.
All she did was pick the young, tender leaves in June (in Boston, that
is), stack them in piles of 25 or so, and then freeze them in zip lock
bags. When ready to use them, she'd blanch them for about 30 seconds in
boiling water. I remember picking them with her....about the only thing we
agreed on was food. Grin.
I remember that it was very important to pick them early in the year, while
they were still tender. If we waited until now, they would not be
acceptable to her because they would be very stringy and tough. We always
picked in early June. When I moved to California, the Lebanese, Greeks and
Syrians that I met always picked in May or June also.
Regarding recipes for grape leaves: Greek cookbooks are wonderful for
these recipes. However, they make grape leaves that are usually quite
heavily laden with olive oil and mint, which is not to my taste. I much
prefer Arabic style grape leaves which are traditionally use very little
olive oil. When looking at recipes from either a Middle Eastern cookbook
or a Greek cookbook, look for those that specify a "Lenten" recipe.
Orthodox Christians from that part of the world eat a totally vegan diet
for almost half the year, including grape leaves, and the food is YUMMY!
If you would like some suggestions regarding cookbooks from this part of
the world, please let me know. I think I have every one in print! LOL!