I was invited to a dumpling party, and though I knew there was little chance that I’d remain purely carb-free, I also wanted to bring something to share that matches the way I’m eating.
Vietnamese-style stuffed grape leaves are a bit of flavored ground meat wrapped inside the leaves. At Five Spice we used to serve these with peanut sauce, though some folks prefer the sweeter-type dips. (Between you and me: they’re wrong and you should do it my way.) I had posted about these back in 2009, but love these enough to want to revisit.
Food in the freezer and pantry feels like money in the bank, and this little treat was a lovely way to spend some of it. I didn’t have the fresh cilantro leaves I wanted. A quick visit to the basement yielded a cube of basil-garlic puree, a pound of ground grass-fed beef, and a packet of grape leaves. Those plus some fish sauce and a handful of fresh spinach leaves turned quickly into the filling, and before I knew it I had them made.
Vietnamese Stuffed Grape Leaves
Makes about 40
1. Preheat oven to 400. Lightly oil a rimmed baking sheet and set aside.
2. Place in a food processor:
- 1 lb. ground grass-fed beef
- 1-2 cloves chopped garlic
- 2 T. chopped fresh basil or cilantro leaves or a combination
- 1 T. Vietnamese fish sauce
- 1/2 c. very clean and coarsely chopped fresh spinach leaves
Process for about 30 seconds, until very well combined.
3. Get your grape leaves. It’s okay to use them from a jar if you weren’t out madly picking and freezing weeds last summer. If you do use the ones in brine, rinse them a bit, then blot off the water. To form the wraps:
Place a leaf in front of you, stem-end down, and put a spoonful of filling in the center.
These get formed differently than the Greek ones usually are. What you want to end up with is a squat little square, rather than a cylinder. To get this, fold over each of the four sides over the filling and then place it on the baking sheet.
Keep at least an inch in between them: you need enough air circulation so that they’ll get a little crispy instead of steaming.
4. Bake for 20 minutes, until black-green and sizzling a bit, then serve with peanut sauce, or even just on their own.