Guest Recipe: Arousiak Avedyan’s Family Yalanchi Recipe

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Arousiak Avedyan says this traditional Armenian recipe for grape leaves (“yalanchi”) stuffed with a tantalizing mixture of onions, rice and dill is an Avedyan family favorite. She says “delicious” is the only word to describe these tender grape leaves that can be served as a main dish or an appetizer, depending on your appetite. Arousiak Avedyan’s treasured family recipe was handed down to her from her late mother-in-law, Alice Avedyan, who was originally from Istanbul.

Ingredients:

10 medium onions, chopped

1/2 cup rice (short grain)

1 bunch fresh dill, chopped

1/4 cup pine nuts

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1/4 cup currants

1 teaspoon each salt and pepper

3/4 teaspoon allspice

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, optional

1 to 1-1/2 cups vegetable oil (or oil of choice)

Juice of 1/2 large lemon, to taste

2 lb. jar grape leaves, drained and rinsed

Preparation:

Sauté onions in one cup of oil until soft. Add more oil if necessary. Add the rice and other ingredients except the lemon juice and grape leaves, and stir a few times. Cook, covered, for 20-25 minutes on medium heat. Stir again, remove from stove, and cool completely.

If using bottled grape leaves, soak them in cool water for a few minutes, and remove stems. (Soaking bottled leaves helps to reduce some of the salt from the brine it is packed in.) To begin, lay one grape leaf on a flat work surface (a plate or dish), shiny side down. Place about two teaspoons of cooled filling at the stem-end of the leaf, depending on the size of the leaf. Spread filling about three-quarters across the width of the leaf.

Start rolling the leaf from stem end away from you, then fold each side of the leaf over the filling and continue to roll away from you. Fold firmly, but not too tightly, so the leaf won’t unravel during cooking. Line the bottom of a large pot with some broken or extra grape leaves. Place wrapped leaves tightly together in the pot, and squeeze lemon juice on top. Add more lemon juice, if desired. Place a heavy plate on top of the wrapped grape leaves. Pour water over the grape leaves, but not enough to cover grape leaves.

Cover and cook for 45-50 minutes on stovetop. Check if the rice is fully cooked, and remove from stovetop. Cool completely and refrigerate overnight. Serve with fresh pita bread, olives, cucumbers, parsley, string cheese, roasted peppers, salad, and lemon wedges.

Yield: 80-90 grape leaves.

 

Recipe and photos contributed by Arousiak Avedyan and Robyn Kalajian at thearmeniankitchen.com.

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