Stuffed swiss chard leaves (Mehchi selek)

March 18, 2009  • 

 

I find it annoying that so-called dolmas are the only stuffed leaves known to the American consumer ; furthermore, they are most often than not stringy, rubbery, tough, greasy, little bundles. In reality, stuffed grape leaves and swiss chard leaves should always be meltingly tender!

If you do not have access to tender, young grape leaves, by all means use swiss chard leaves (selek), which are used interchangeably in Lebanese cuisine. Swiss chard is a wonderful vegetable; full of vitamins, iron, calcium, fiber, beats spinach as a powerful antioxidant leafy green.


When prepared the way I will describe, you will have to stop yourself from eating the whole plate. No chewing required!

INGREDIENTS: To serve a crowd of 15 people. Quantity of ingredients can be halved, or tripled.

  • 1 1/2 cups of rice (sushi rice or Egyptian medium-grain), soaked in water 30 minutes  and drained.
  • 4 bunches of swiss chard, with nice unbroken leaves.
  • 1 large onion chopped very finely (6 oz.)
  • 1 bunch of parsley, washed, dried, chopped fine and stems discarded
  • 10 mint leaves, chopped fine or 2 Tablespoons of dried mint, crumbled.
  • 3 very large tomatoes, chopped fine (8-12 oz.)
  • 4  large lemons, juiced to equal 6 oz.
  • 3/4  cup of extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 large potatoes, scrubbed and sliced in 1/4 in slices, to line the pot and cover it completely
  • salt, pepper 1 teaspoon of ground nutmeg, or cinnamon, or allspice, or a combination of all, to taste 1 Tablespoon of pomegranate molasses, optional 2 cups of water to cook the leaves in.

METHOD:

  1. Place all the stuffing ingredients in a bowl: Drained rice, diced tomatoes, chopped parsley and mint, chopped onion. Add the spices and mix well. Add 1/2 cup of  olive oil and 1/2 cup of  fresh lemon juice and mix well. Set aside. (If you are using pomegranate molasses, you will add it at this point to the stuffing).
  2. Prepare the swiss chard leaves: Wash the leaves and cut off the hard stem and larger veins. Set aside. Take the leaves and cut them in squares, about 4 inches by 4 inches. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, drop the leaves and the stems and veins (coarsely chopped) to the pot and boil the leaves for a few seconds until the leaves are wilted. Drain the pot of its water (you can reserve the water). Let the leaves cool for a few minutes.
  3. Line the pot with thickly cut potato slices.
  4. Take one leaf at a time, place a tablespoon of stuffing towards the edge and roll the leaves like a cigar. Place each stuffed leaf in the pot, over the potato slices, in a concentric fashion, until the pot has been filled with stuffed  leaves. Try not to leave any room, the leaves need to be packed tightly.
  5. Cover the stuffed leaves with a small plate, to keep them tightly in place. Place the pot over medium heat.
  6. Add 2 cups of the water in which the chard leaves have boiled, and 1/2 cup of extra-virgin olive oil. Pour the juice remaining from the stuffing, any extra lemon juice (or a couple of tablespoons of pomegranate molasses) into the pot.
  7. Cover the pot and bring it to a simmer. Let it simmer gently for about 45 minutes. Uncover the pot and let it cool a bit, then taste one of the leaves to check if the rice is thoroughly cooked. Let the pot cool.
  8. When ready to serve, take out the small plate, hold a large platter over the pot, and invert the pot onto the platter.
  9. You can either eat the potatoes with the leaves or make them into a salad, with some additional lemon juice and olive oil if needed.

Comments

15 Comments  •  Comments Feed

  1. Linda says:

    Hi again Joumana, now I’m going to try the swiss chard rolls tomorrow. Have you ever used brown rice instead or the sushi rice. I’ll let you know how they turn out. Also do you make muhamera – the red pepper and walnut dip? Thanks, Linda

    • Joumana says:

      Hi Linda!
      I have not used brown rice but I know it has been done. Nada Saleh, a cookbook author, uses it for swiss chard. She says to pre-cook it for a short time. She uses 140g (5 oz) short-grain brown rice , pre-cooked in 200ml (7oz) water for 12 minutes until the water is absorbed (can also add a bit of salt). Then, you mix the brown rice with the other filling ingredients. As far as muhammara, I have tasted it in Lebanon but it is a dish from Aleppo. I love it and I will be making it for this blog soon. I have seen several recipes for it, some with red peppers some with only walnuts, bread crumbs, pomegranate molasses and spices. When I am in Beirut this summer, I will get a decent recipe from someone who is from Aleppo for you (and me too)! Take care.

  2. Kylee says:

    I’ve made grape leaves before but I’ve always made them with ground beef. I’m not sure I would be able to omit meat completely since I love it so much. I’m just curious if you have any recipes for them with meat? And do you think the Swiss chard leaves would be good when used with a meat recipe?

  3. ceren says:

    well, dolma is a favourite dish in Turkey as well and swiss chard dolma is quite common next to the grape leaves. anyhow, is this a picture you have taken by yourself? I am gonna make swiss chard dolma tonight, and while browsing the internet I have come accross with the same picture as yours: http://lezzetarifleri.blogspot.com/2011/01/paz-sarmas.html

    • Joumana says:

      @Ceren: Yes, this was my photo; I have seen this happen a lot and now I watermark my photos when I post them to avoid this problem. Thank you for pointing it out, I have left a comment on that person’s site. (I have seen my photos on magazines as well as restaurant menus!).

  4. ceren says:

    It is a shame that people do this without crediting or thanking the owner.
    Anyway, I made my own version of swiss chard dolma for tonight and I keep the stems of the chard to try your swiss chard hummus recipe! I always used them in the soups, never thrown them away but I think having another idea such as an alternative hummus recipe is great. btw, I also write my own food blog (www.sofravemuhabbet.com) and I am planning to post that hummus recipe when I make it 🙂 I’ll give a link to your recipe; so thanks already now that I have the chance 🙂 have a nice day

  5. Rose says:

    Hi jummana there’s no wrong with Doulma recipe because it is so Delicious, but we have different ingredient and different name like wark enab, yalangi, and dolma so you supposed to invite your ingredient without saying bad thing about other country’s food, it will be good because many people will look at and read your blog, and you know Iraqi goods it’s so delicious .

    Thank you

    • Joumana says:

      @Rose: Dear Rose, I personally love Iraqi cuisine and even wrote a book about it and had it published recently. I don’t get how you are assuming that I am saying bad things about Iraqi foods? I am simply saying that I have had bad experiences eating dolmas in restaurants. Nothing more. Stuffed grape leaves are called dolmas in the US, and do not point out to Iraq, but usually to Greek food or Mediterranean food in general. I would like you to point out where in this post I am criticising Iraqi food, please.
      http://www.tasteofbeirut.com/2013/12/iraqi-cuisine-al-tabekh-al-3iraki-a-giveaway/

  6. Caroline Ashkar says:

    Hi Joumana,
    Thank you for posting thiss awesome recipe. I was wondering if this could be done and frozen before cooking it in water. Thank you!!

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  8. Christine says:

    Made these last night for supper and they were sooo delicious!!! The chard just melts in your mouth, and the lemony, parlsey mint flavor is addictive!!!! A little work, but so with it!!! I saved my potatoes for another dish tonight (they taste amazing!) many thanks for the great recipe, and thorough instructions!!

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