This is a recipe from Lebanese chef Marlene Mattar.
I am Lebanese-born, which means that I love stuffed grape leaves.
I hate stringy, rubbery, stuffed grape leaves.
I am appalled at restaurants that are not ashamed to sell them to their customers. They should know better! In Lebanese cuisine, grape leaves are picked when they are tender; the result is that after cooking they will melt in your mouth. The swiss chard leaves are stuffed in the same fashion as grape leaves. The result is the same, meltingly tender.
My point is this: Do not use grape leaves from a jar, use fresh young and tender leaves, or use swiss chard leaves. Swiss chard leaves are available year-round and one large leaf will yield at least four rolls. (for the recipe, check here)
In this recipe, Chef Marlene Mattar used the swiss chard leaves to form a cake; the stuffing is the same traditional rice stuffing used in Lebanese cuisine for cold mezzes. The idea is to save time.
- 20 large swiss chard leaves
- 1 1/2 cups of medium-grain rice, such as Sushi rice (or Turkish or Egyptian or Italian)
- 3 cups of Italian parsley, chopped very fine (stems discarded)
- 1 1/2 cups of fresh mint
- 3 cups of tomatoes, chopped in fine dice
- 1 cup of onion, chopped fine
- 1 Tablespoon red Aleppo pepper or hot paprika (optional)
- 1/2 cup of pine nuts (optional)
- 3/4 cup of fresh lemon juice (or more, as needed)
- 1/2 cup of olive oil
- salt, pepper, to taste and a dash of allspice and cinnamon
- Tomato peel and extra mint leaves for garnish
- Using a sharp knife, deftly remove the thick chard stalks, putting them aside to use later for the stalks salad.
- Drop the chard leaves in rapidly boiling water for a few seconds; remove from the water and dry on towels on a flat surface.
- Fill a pot with salted water (about 4 cups) and bring to a boil; as soon as it boils, drop the rice in the water and cook for 10 minutes or until it is halfway cooked, tender but still firm to the bite; remove and drain well.
- Sprinkle the spices on the chopped onion and mix well; add the rice to the onion and all the other ingredients.
- Take a pan measuring about 9inX3in and cover with foil; lay the swiss chard leaves at the bottom of the pan, about 1/3 of them, making sure the leaves are hanging out (to use at the end to fold them over the stuffing).
- Place 1/3 of the stuffing mixture on top of the chard leaves. Cover with a few chard leaves.
- Place 1/2 of the remaining stuffing over the leaves. Cover with the remaining leaves.
- Place the remaining stuffing and cover with the leaves hanging on the sides. Pour a small cup of water on top.
- Cover the pan with foil and bake in a 325F preheated oven for about one hour.
- Remove and cool on the counter and then store in the fridge; serve at room temperature.
NOTE: This swiss chard cake will keep for one week refrigerated.