Posts filed under 'side dishes'

My Grama Sanom’s Grapeleaves

This is a recipe that I have wanted to make and post on here for ages…but every time I have made them, I have either forgotten to photograph them, or not had a working camera.

Anyway, these are my Grama Sanom’s grapeleaves! FINALLY!

So there really isn’t one particular story to go with this dish. There were many stories over many years, that I hold close to my heart, and remember every time I make these. Because, whenever I saw my Grama Sanom, we would 9 times out of 10 make grapeleaves together. So this is a recipe that I remember very well. And, as the years go by without my dear Grama, I find that little pieces of her live on in me. For instance, when I look down at my hands rolling these leaves, I notice that they are indeed so very like my grandmother’s hands. And in 50 years, I can see them curling into little arthritic cups…just like hers. A painful, but perfect measuring device. πŸ™‚

Some fond memories I have regarding grapeleaves, were things like driving along in the car with my Grama and Jiddu (Jiddu = Grandpa in Arabic), and hearing my Grama shout to my Jiddu to “Pa! Stop the car!”, and we would come to screeching halt at the side of the road, when my Grama would then calmly get out, walk to the side of the road, and start picking grapeleaves off of the vines growing on the side of the road. I would jump out and help her, knowing that my belly would soon be filled with delicious stuffed grapeleaves.

When we would get home, my grama would wash the leaves in cold water removing all the dirt and any stray bugs that may have made their way home with us. After the leaves were rinsed, it was my job to lay all the leaves out so that the veins were facing up, and trim off all the stems while my Grama made the stuffing. (Recipe below). After all the leaves were stacked, vein sides up, and stems cut off, my grama would lay them in a 9×13 baking dish and pour boiling hot water over them until they were covered with it. She would wait until they became their signature dark green color, and were wilted and pliable enough to roll. After they were tender enough, she would drain out all the water and then it was my job to pat them all somewhat dry so they weren’t dripping wet.

Once the leaves were ready, and the meat/rice mixture was ready, it was time to roll! We would sit at the kitchen table for what seemed like hours, and carefully roll out each delicious package. Stacking them up into a big pot. When they were done, she would mix up a bowl of water and tomato paste, stirring it until the paste had fully dissolved. She would then place a plate upside down over the pot of leaves, and pour the tomato mixture over the leaves until the leaves were just covered. She would throw in a few teaspoons of salt, and a little squeeze of lemon…and in around 30 minutes…we would be enjoying our grapeleaves feast.

Let me just say, that I have eaten my fair share of grapeleaves at restaurants over the years, and never have any of them come close to these. Maybe it’s just because the way she made them, was what I became accustomed to, what I grew up eating…but to me, they are even more delicious because they are wrapped up in my memories of her. And so whenever I make them, I look down at my hands…and know she is with me and somewhere up there, smiling down on me for keeping her memory and traditions going. I can’t wait to have kids and grandkids so that I can share this tradition with them.

In the meantime, I am sharing it with you! So please enjoy them!

Recipe from Mary Sanom

2 lbs. ground chuck (you can also use ground turkey, but if you do I like to add a little olive oil for some fat)
1 lb. long grain white rice
1 small onion (finely diced)
1 small green pepper (finely diced)
1 clove minced garlic
8 oz tomato sauce
8 oz tomato sauce or paste
Salt/Pepper to taste
Grapeleaves (from the side of the road! OR you can buy them in the jar at the grocery store in the ethnic food aisle, but they aren’t as tender as fresh picked!*)
1 lemon


  • Mix ground chuck, rice, onion, green pepper, garlic and tomato sauce in large bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (I use around a teaspoon, perhaps a little more). I usually just take a little bite of this mixture to make sure it is seasoned correctly, which freaks a lot of people out to eat raw meat, but I’ve been doing it all my life, and never once have I fallen ill from this. πŸ˜‰
  • Pour in some tomato sauce enough to moisten the meat. You want the meat mixture to be slightly moist, but not so it’s so wet that it’s falling apart
  • Place enough grapeleaves in the bottom of a large pot to cover the bottom of the pot. This will keep the grapeleaves from sticking to the bottom of the pot and burning.
  • Lay out a grapeleaf with the vein side up. Place a small amount of the beef and rice at the bottom 1/3 of the leaf (see photo above), tuck in the sides of the leaves over the meat, and begin to roll up like a cigar
  • Continue rolling your grapeleaves, and laying them in rows on the bottom of the pot, which has been lined with unfilled leaves. When your first layer of grapeleaves has lined the bottom of the pot, you want to start the new layer in the opposite direction, so that the rows criss-cross each other. This will allow the liquid to get to all the leaves easier than it would if they were all going the same direction and packed in tightly together
  • Keep rolling up all your leaves, and stacking the layers, until there are no more leaves/or no more filling/or your pot is full! I never like to fill the pot more than 3/4 with grapeleaves to allow room for the liquid, the plate, and for the liquid to boil and bubble up over the leaves without spilling out of the pot
  • Once you’ve got your leaves all rolled, place a plate upside down over the leaves. This will keep the leaves from floating during cooking, and coming unrolled.
  • In the bowl that your meat mixture was in, scoop out a 8 oz can of tomato paste and mix with enough water to cover your grapeleaves
  • Pour the tomato/water mixture over your leaves until they are just covered.
  • Add a teaspoon or so of salt, and a squeeze of half a lemon into the pot
  • Cover the pot with a lid, and bring the leaves and liquid to a boil, then reduce heat to medium, and let cook for about 30 minutes or until meat is cooked thru and rice and leaves are tender (if you have a lot of leaves, this may take longer – to test, just take out a leave from the top of the pot and taste it)
  • Once your leaves are cooked, remove from heat. Take out the plate, and start removing your grapeleaves with a pair of tongs, arranging them on a pretty serving platter!
  • DIG IN! They will be super tender and moist and full of flavor.
  • I like to reserve the rest of the sauce from the pot, and use a little bit of it to pour over leftover leaves before I reheat them in the microwave

I hope you enjoy my Grama Sanom’s recipe for Syrian grapeleaves!
Click here to see the whole photo set on my flickr!

*If you do buy grapeleaves from the jar, make sure that you rinse them thoroughly and pat them dry. Also, you CAN freeze fresh grapeleaves, but only after they have been wilted with boiling water, just pat them dry and put stacks of them into ziplock bags and throw them in the freezer. These will last you through the winter months, when you can’t pick them. The best time to pick grapeleaves in Michigan is during July, early August, when they are big enough, but haven’t been eaten by all the bugs.

4 comments February 3rd, 2011

A New Take on Mujadara!

This is a recipe that I recently got from my dear friend, Stevie G. He is a super healthy eater, and I always try to emulate his diet, since it’s very healthy, and VERY tasty. He had a bunch of our friends over for a post-holiday dinner last month, and this dish was among the very delicious recipes that graced the plentiful table.

The simplicity lies in the fact that all the ingredients are pre-cooked, and it’s really just toss in a pan, heat and serve. The whole thing takes about 10 minutes to make, if that. However, you really need a Trader Joe’s Market for this recipe (or some other market that carries pre-cooked rices and lentils) if you don’t want to spend an hour just pre-cooking those ingredients.

Ok…so here we go!

Recipe from: Stephen Gemignani

1 package Trader Joe’s Pre-cooked Black Lentils (found in produce section)
1 package Trader Joe’s Pre-cooked Wild Rice (16 oz)
1 package Trader Joe’s Pre-cooked Brown Rice (10.5 oz)
1 bag Trader Joe’s Frozen Peas
1 package Trader Joe’s Unsalted Dry Toasted Slivered Almonds
Italian Seasoning
Olive Oil
Minced Garlic
Golden Raisins (optional)
Crispy Fried Onions or Scallions (optional)


  • In very large saute pan, add a few tablespoons of olive oil.
  • Add minced garlic and saute until oil is infused
  • Add black lentils, brown rice, wild rice and stir until clumps have broken down
  • Add half a bag of the peas, and half a bag of the slivered almonds, and stir. If you’d like, you can add a quarter cup or so of golden raisins at this point as well.
  • Add curry and italian seasoning to taste, and stir to combine well.
  • Add a little olive oil (or a bit of water – if you are being super healthy) as you are sauteing to keep things moist and keep from drying out
  • Saute until all ingredients are heated through
  • Once plated, you can sprinkle with some crispy fried onions or scallions


Add comment February 16th, 2009

Green Bean and Chick Pea Salad

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I don’t have a lot of time for cooking today (which is usually my Sunday pastime). So I decided to just whip up a quick, healthy salad for lunch. I love how colorful this salad is, and how fresh everything tastes.

Green Bean and Chick Pea Salad
Recipe from Julie Foxworthy

About 4-5 cups of handtrimmed french green beans (haricot vert), steamed but still slightly crisp, you do NOT want mushy beans! YUCK!
1 can chick peas, rinsed and drained
1 can whole plum tomatoes, cut into quarters (minus liquid)
1/4 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tsp salt (more or less to taste)
1 tsp pepper (more or less to taste)


  • Steam green beans, until tender, but still maintaining a bit of the snap/crunch
  • Once green beans are done cooking, drain and pour them into a bowl of ice water to shock and stop the cooking
  • Place green beans into appropriate size serving bowl and add chickpeas, tomatoes, olive oil, parmesan cheese, salt and pepper
  • Toss lightly with tongs, so everything is combined
  • Adjust seasonings if necessary
  • Serve with a squeeze of lemon and toasted pita points
  • Enjoy!

Add comment January 5th, 2009

Roasted Yellow Squash

My brother gave me some fresh yellow squash from his garden the other day. They were calling out to me, so I decided to make a healthier alternative to my Grama Dee’s infamous buttered squash. This is what I decided on. Simple and tasty. Yum!

Roasted Yellow Squash
Recipe from Julie Foxworthy


Yellow Squash
Olive Oil


  • Wash and slice your squash into 1/4″ slices
  • Lay them flat on a jelly roll pan
  • Drizzle olive oil over the squash, add salt and pepper to taste, then flip them over and repeat.
  • Bake at 350ΒΊ for about 20 minutes, or until desired doneness.
  • Serve and enjoy!
  • 1 comment August 24th, 2008

    Would you like some squash with your butter?

    Six months after my Grama Dee passed away, my family was a sad mess. It was the first time in all our lives, that we’d not had our beloved grandma around to prepare us our New Year’s Day feast. And to add to that gloom, it was also the first anniversary for me and my siblings of my father telling us that he was divorcing our mother. Needless to say, January 1st, 1999 was not the happiest of days for me.

    So in order to give myself a little bit of comfort, I decided that I would make my own little New Year’s Day feast. One of the essential menu items being my grama’s “squash” as she called it. But unfortunately, I’d never learned how to make my grama’s squash. So I furiously went through all my recipe cards she’d sent me over the years, and then realized that I did not have it. I really did not know how to make her squash. And when that fact hit me, well…I guess you could say that I had a bit of a meltdown. My back slowly slid down the front of my refrigerator, until my body was collapsed into a heap on the floor of my tiny apartment kitchen. My body racked with sobs, missing my grama, and our family traditions, wanting so much for my mom and dad to be together again, and feeling just plain miserable that our family had deteriorated so much in one short year.

    Then somehow, the tears stopped, and it occurred to me that I was being stupid, because of course my Aunt Fran would know how to make Grama’s squash! She was her only daughter, and my Grama Dee had lived with my Aunt Fran and her family for over 20 years! Excitedly, I called up my aunt and said “Aunt Fran, I’m really sad. I want to make grama’s squash, but I don’t know how.” She cracked up laughing and said “Well, Julie Anne, all it is, is a can of pet milk, a half stick of butter, and some boiled yellow squash sliced up in a pot.”

    I was dumbfounded. Something so tasty? THAT SIMPLE? No way. But yes, it’s true. I found out, that some of the tastiest things are no more than a can of pet milk and a stick of butter, plus a vegetable or two.”Sweetie…that’s it. And Grama Dee used to like a lot of pepper, so don’t forget to add lots of pepper.” I sniffled…”I remember. I won’t forget.”

    And so, here it is. A recipe so simple, even my dad could make it (and he barely knows how to open a can of Campbell’s).

    BUTTERED SQUASH recipe from Doris Foxworthy

    5-6 small yellow squash
    1 can pet milk
    1/2 stick butter
    dash salt
    dash black pepper


    1. Slice up your squash, in about 1/4″ slices.
    2. Add squash to a pot of boiling water (a medium-sized saucepan will do the trick).
    3. Boil until squash are tender, then drain.
    4. Return squash to pot, and add pet milk, butter, salt and pepper.
    5. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and let simmer for 20 minutes stirring occasionally until sauce thickens slightly, and squash begins to break down
    6. Ladle a huge spoonful into your favorite bowl, and enjoy!

    Add comment January 18th, 2006


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