The late Victoria Vezirian and her daughter, Vivian Vezirian-Hovsepian.

Recipe Corner: The Vezirian Family’s Yalanchi Recipe

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When it comes to making stuffed grape leaves (“yalanchi”), most Armenian families have their own unique recipes. Robyn Kalajian at thearmeniankitchen.com reports that Vivian Vezirian-Hovsepsian, a cousin from the ‘Dikranagerdsi’ side of her family, was happy to share her family’s recipe that was handed down to her by her beloved mother, Victoria Vezirian. Robyn adds that Vivian thinks this recipe originally came from her maternal grandmother, Gadar Najarian, who was from Dikranagerd.

Vivian prepares fresh grape leaves in the following manner: She picks them when they’re young and tender, parboils the leaves until they change color, drains and cools them, then takes a bunch, stacks and rolls them, squeezing out excess water. She then puts the stacks of leaves in zip lock freezer bags. She says they store indefinitely. She always dates the year the leaves are picked and uses the older batches first. When ready to prepare grape leaves, Vivian puts the frozen leaves in cold water until thawed; drains excess liquid and lets the rolling begin.

Ingredients:

3 lbs. finely chopped onions

2 cups olive oil

1 1/2 cups rice (Carolina rice is the best to use in this recipe, Vivian suggests)

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1 can tomato paste (12 oz.)

Juice of 3 lemons, to taste

1-2 tablespoons paprika

1 tablespoon allspice

3/4 cup pine nuts, to taste

Salt and pepper, to taste

Few dashes cayenne pepper

1/2 large bunch parsley, finely chopped

80-100 fresh grape leaves (jarred grape leaves may be used if fresh are unavailable)

Preparation:

In a large pot, sauté onions and rice in olive oil over medium heat until onions are translucent, for 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add more oil or lower heat if mixture sticks or appears like it is burning. When onions are limp, add remaining ingredients except the grape leaves, stir, and cook for another 10 minutes.

Remove pot from stove, stir, and cool ingredients completely, about 20-25 minutes. (Drain any oil from pot into a bowl for later use.)

Remove stems. Lay one grape leaf on a flat work surface, shiny side down. Place two teaspoons of 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 the stem end away from you, then fold each side of the leaf over the filling and continue to roll away from you. Fold leaf firmly, but not too tightly, so leaf will not unravel during cooking.

Line torn or leftover grape leaves on the bottom of a baking pan or large pot to buffer grape leaves from direct heat of the oven or stovetop. Arrange grape leaves not more than three layers deep. Drizzle grape leaves with any drained oil from pot. Add warm water to fill baking pan or pot about 3/4 full.

Cook on top of the stove on medium heat or bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for about one hour, until most of the liquid is absorbed. Check if rice is fully cooked, and remove from oven to cool completely.

Refrigerate entire baking pan or pot overnight for best results.  Serve grape leaves at room temperature with fresh lemon wedges. Drizzle with olive oil and more lemon juice, if desired.

Yield: Approximately 80-100 grape leaves.

*Recipe and photos contributed by Vivian Vezirian-Hovsepian and Robyn Kalajian at thearmeniankitchen.com. See an informative how-to-stuff-and-roll grape leaves video at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OiNsQyPUJ64

 

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