Stuffed greens with lamb chops

This dish would be considered an event in a Lebanese household. Served with a bowl of yogurt and some lamb chops it is a meal fit for royalty or your most favorite people.

One word about the greens. In Lebanese cuisine, swiss chard is always used interchangeably with grape leaves; the reason is that grape leaves taste best when fresh; the rest of the year, swiss chard leaves are a wonderful substitute, guaranteeing that you will have a meltingly tender morsel in your mouth.

I used both swiss chard and collard greens. I like the collard greens because their leaves are large and even. Swiss chard from a supermarket is usually filled with holes and not very reliable.

I picked up a leaflet from Wholefoods supermarket the other day  listing  vegetables by order of nutrient density. Each vegetable gets assigned a nutrient density factor; guess which ones were at the top of the list? (Answer in your comments)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 6 bunches of greens (swiss chard, collard)
  • 1 cup of sushi rice (or Egyptian or Turkish rice-it just needs to be fat and medium-grain)
  • 8 ounces of minced meat (lamb or beef)
  • Spices: salt (2 t.), black pepper (1/2 t.), allspice (1 t.), cinnamon (1 t.), paprika (1 t.), Aleppo pepper (1 t.), thyme (1 tablespoon)
  • 2 Tablespoons of pomegranate molasses (optional)
  • 1 onion, chopped very fine (optional)
  • olive oil, as needed
  • 1/2 cup of lemon juice
  • 4 cups of water, with salt dissolved in it (to taste)
  • 8 lamb chops

First step: Prepare the lamb chops and soak the rice

  1. Measure the rice and cover with water and a dash of salt and set it aside.
  2. Clean the lamb chops by rubbing them with a cut lemon, sprinkle with salt and pepper and set aside.
  3. Heat the pot, add 2 teaspoons of olive oil and pan-fry the lamb chops on both sides until browned. Take off the heat.

Second step: Prepare the stuffing

  1. Drain the rice. Place in a bowl with the minced meat and all the spices. Add the finely chopped onions (optional). Combine the mixture until it is well mixed. Cover and place in the fridge.

Third step: Prepare the leaves

  1. After washing the leaves thoroughly, place them in a pot with about 2 inches of salted boiling water. Boil for one minute till the leaves are wilted, turn off the heat and drain in a colander.
  2. Lay each leaf flat and cut off the stalks and thick veins. Set the talks and veins aside to be made into a salad. Cut the leaves into squares as even as possible, about 4 inches for each side. (They will be uneven, it is OK).
  3. Remove the stuffing from the fridge, and place one tablespoon on each leaf, rolling the leaf like a cigar. Try to place the stuffing in the middle, as it will expand and you don’t want the rice to ooze out all over the place.
  4. As soon as each leaf is stuffed, place it in the pot on top of the browned lamb chops, going in a concentric circle if possible.

Fourth step: Cooking the leaves

  1. Fill a measuring jug with water and a good pinch of salt, stir to dissolve. Add 1/2 cup of lemon juice (fresh preferably although I do use a bottled juice in a pinch). If you are using pomegranate molasses, add it now and stir to dissolve. You should have about 3 cups of liquid (enough to almost cover the leaves).
  2. Place a small plate on top of the leaves (the flip side of the plate) and press slightly. The leaves should be almost covered in liquid. cover the pot, bring to a simmer and simmer for 30 minutes. Uncover the pot, let is simmer some more (about 15 minutes) to reduce the volume of stock. Cool and taste to see if the leaf is perfectly cooked, if not simmer for a few minutes longer.
  3. Flip the pot onto a large serving platter, leaving the chops on top. Serve with a bowl of yogurt on the side.

NOTE: You can either place the stalks on top of the leaves and eat them with the stock alongside the leaves or make a salad with them which is what is traditionally done. For a salad recipe, click here.

I would not use turnip greens here as they are too strong (and sour) for my taste.

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41 Comments

  1. Posted January 29, 2011 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

    I was just looking at the ANDI list today when I was shopping at Whole Foods. From my memory, which is going feeble these days it is: kale, collard greens, water cress, bok choy, swiss chard, romaine lettuce… I think this is the order they listed.

    These stuffed greens look like a true labor of love. They must be divine!

  2. Posted January 29, 2011 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

    Very interesting recipe. That’s a Middle Eastern sushi.

  3. Posted January 29, 2011 at 7:48 pm | Permalink

    I just love those.

    I’ve only made them with fresh grape leaves, but sometimes I can only find grape leaves in a brine.

    Do you have any idea if those are good?

  4. Posted January 29, 2011 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

    I’d never thought of using a different green than grape leaves. This way you can do stuffed greens year round!

  5. Joumana
    Posted January 29, 2011 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

    @Adriano: I would stay away from the brined ones in a can; this is why I use fresh greens such as swiss chard or collard greens; the canned leaves are too large and too tough and when you cook them you end up with a stringy and rubbery product that is more of a pain to eat than a pleasure!

  6. Posted January 29, 2011 at 8:01 pm | Permalink

    J’ai mangé le même plat chez des Syriens ( avec des feuilles de vigne) et je peux certifier que c’est un plat délicieux.
    Bon week-end et à très bientôt.

  7. Posted January 29, 2011 at 10:59 pm | Permalink

    We had more Swiss Chard than I knew what to do with this summer. I am so glad to see this recipe. I will put it to good use. Looks fab!

  8. Posted January 29, 2011 at 11:56 pm | Permalink

    This looks fantastic! I love the idea of using sushi rice. If I try this, I like I’ll subsitute kangaroo mince, as it’s far cheaper here at the moment :)

  9. Posted January 30, 2011 at 12:31 am | Permalink

    This looks wonderful! Thanks for the tip about the canned leaves, it’s what I would’ve used.

  10. Posted January 30, 2011 at 4:13 am | Permalink

    une très belle réalisation, et un joli résultat !!!
    bravo et à bientôt!

  11. Posted January 30, 2011 at 10:36 am | Permalink

    I get so behind leaving comments over here – everything always looks so good.

  12. Posted January 30, 2011 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    J – It’s good to know Swiss Chard is an option here because I get a huge bunch every week from the farm as part of my share. In terms of nutritients, I believe kale and Swiss chard are at the top of the list. Kale is really a super food – pack with so much nutrition. I’m trying to eat much more, and fortunately there are more and more creative ideas on how to prepare it.

  13. Posted January 30, 2011 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    Sadly I end up using canned leaves, well-rinsed, as I can’t find fresh leaves here in Dubai (although they sold them in Saudi when I lived there). It’s a good idea to use a different leaf though. This is one of my favourite ways of stuffing veg – with the meat and rice filling and chops in the bottom of the casserole. Is there anything more heavenly than good stuffed veg?

  14. Posted January 30, 2011 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    Wow! Those look amazing! Since I have trouble getting my hands on grape leaves, kale/chard is a brilliant substitution!

  15. Posted January 30, 2011 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    Joumana, I just saw your wonderful YouTube video on making baklava — Loved it! The Food Network will be knocking on your door soon. Warm regards, Tom

  16. Posted January 30, 2011 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

    I hope the answer is Swiss chard because I love it. Your stuffed greens look delicious!

  17. Posted January 30, 2011 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

    I’m intrigued! And I really love pomegranate molasses!

  18. Posted January 30, 2011 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

    Effectivement, c’est une bonne idée d’utiliser des feuilles de bettes même si j’ai un petit faible pour les feuilles de vigne qu’il faudrait cuire en saumure soi-même ! c’est une bien belle recette très originale… J’aime bien aussi ta recette égyptienne, ce sont des haricots rouges je pense… très goûteux tout cela…

  19. Posted January 30, 2011 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

    That looks amazing!!!I love all your food and your delicious flavors!

  20. Posted January 30, 2011 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

    A special meal, indeed…this is a meal that’s fit for royalty, Joumana! Great tip with collard greens, I’m going to remember that!

  21. Posted January 30, 2011 at 8:48 pm | Permalink

    I had made the stuffed gape leaves from Zerrin’s blog with great results but using the chard leaves opens new possibilities to the dish.

    Thanks for the pictures and showing how to used the leaves.

  22. Posted January 30, 2011 at 9:33 pm | Permalink

    Lovely and delicious. You are right, making these is indeed a special event. Love your technique.

  23. Posted January 30, 2011 at 9:56 pm | Permalink

    Mom often uses Swiss Chard. I haven’t yet. I would if I had a garden full of it… but, I should by some and do it – when it is in season. I know it is SO good for us, and it costs pennies. That forkful says a thousand words, doesn’t it. YUM!
    Gorgeous!
    :)
    Valerie

  24. Posted January 31, 2011 at 1:10 am | Permalink

    Wow. I love this recipe! Rolling up stuff in green scares me because I have big hands and little patients. I hope to one day make these (or be invited to your house) lolz.

  25. Posted January 31, 2011 at 4:43 am | Permalink

    Very interesting dish, worth to try..

  26. Posted January 31, 2011 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    My husband loves stuffed grape leaves but there is something about the flavor I just don’t like. But I LOVE Swiss chard so using it in this delicious recipe is a great idea! Love the ingredients (I’m a huge lamb fiend) and I happen to have a jar of Pomagranate Molasses I’m wondering what to do with. Great recipe…. again!

  27. Posted January 31, 2011 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    Oh, the irony. I recently brought home several bunches of Swiss Chard, while simultaneously throwing away a bag of sushi rice because I couldn’t remember why I bought it in the first place.

    In any event, I think this lovely dish deserves a second trip to the store.

  28. Posted January 31, 2011 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    Merci pour ton astuce de pouvoir échanger les feuilles de vigne contre des feuilles de blettes … On en a beaucoup par ici. C’est un classique de la cuisine niçoise.
    Je note ta recette, comme toujours !
    Bisous
    Hélène

  29. Posted January 31, 2011 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    How do I thank you for the idea of using chard or collards in place of grape leaves? What an eye-opener, the canned grape leaves are icky at best. It is absolutely brilliant! The stuffing sounds fantastic too :)

  30. Posted January 31, 2011 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    I must say that when my mom used to make koupepia with Swiss chard they weren’t my favourite but now I love them. They sound delicious Joumana quite different than how we make them in Cyprus.

  31. Posted January 31, 2011 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

    That is long process but I bet the process is worth it, fit for royalty. I had been looking for this recipe for ever. Just one question Joumana do you think i will taste as good with chicken meat substituted instead if lamb.

  32. Posted January 31, 2011 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

    un plat que j’aime beaucoup! je le connais aux feuilles de chou , aux feuilles de vigne ..à tester à présent aux feuiiles de blettes. Merci!!

  33. Posted January 31, 2011 at 7:06 pm | Permalink

    i hate that we do not have a local whole foods, the closest is in san antonio..i love your stuffing, we have been enjoying lamb with my mom visiting!!

    sweetlife

  34. Posted January 31, 2011 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

    You are one great cook Joumana! Love your creativity and your posts!

  35. Joumana
    Posted January 31, 2011 at 9:50 pm | Permalink

    @sensiblecooking: sure! you can use chicken or turkey; just make sure you season it very generously as the filling tends to taste bland.

  36. SYLVIA
    Posted January 31, 2011 at 11:24 pm | Permalink

    I like this recipe, there are a lot of fresh flavors that come together. Lemon juice really adds the acidic punch to this dish, people aren’t going to be able to resist.
    Joumana, this is a fresh technique with Lebanese ingredients, love the results.

  37. Posted February 1, 2011 at 2:30 am | Permalink

    Love the recipe and keen on making these myself! Might round up some helpers and make a day of it!

  38. Posted February 2, 2011 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    I never knew grape leaves and swiss chard were interchangeable. Very interesting!

  39. Posted February 2, 2011 at 10:02 am | Permalink

    I´m in love with your blog. I love Lebanese food. My grandmother teach me how to cook it so since I´m 8 years old I make this kind of recipes at home. We call this stuffed greens as “niños envueltos” or in english will be “wrap child” :D. And we make it with all kind of meet. Your blog is great, I´ll stay! kisses

  40. Posted February 3, 2011 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    I like the idea of vine leaves! Fantastic recipe . . . thank you!

  41. Posted February 19, 2011 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

    I thought this was a post about lamb chops haha. But the stuffed greens looks delicious! The whole meal looks like quite a task to prepare. Definitely worth it in the end though!

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