Grape leaves (dolmades) flavor--what IS it?

If I don't have access to the leaves to make dolmades (stuffed grape leaves), how can I mimic that amazing flavor from fresh grape leaves? Are the leaves themselves that unidentified awesomeness, or is is some combo of acid, oil, herbs (dill and oregano), salt and pepper that make such deliciousness? Could I mix these with rice for an approximation of that flavor if I can't get leaves?

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9 Comments

bugbitten May 27, 2013
Recently I spent considerable time trying to find the grape leaves you say you can't find. Make something else if you can't find the leaves. You're a cook, yes?
 
dymnyno May 27, 2013
Bottled grape leaves are common in most delis. The grape leaves that are used fresh are very tender young grape leaves. So, we can't just pop into the vineyard and get grape leaves any time we want them, but we can plan ahead and can our own from the vineyard. Now that it's almost June...time is running out.(early bud break this year)
 
Sam1148 May 25, 2013
I should also add..even MORE lemon juice after the cabbage or squash gets steamed. I love the flavor of stuffed grape leaves and go to Middle eastern Greek Chuch food fair twice a year.
I've always suspected they used the excess liquid from grape leaves (they make tons of them) in their squash and cabbage. Steaming and soaking liquid. Yes, they do for soaking and using olive juice and as mentioned lots and lots of lemon juice. For steaming and soaking cabbage and squash.

The stuffed cabbage is topped with a 'greek' tomato sauce...
Tomato sauce, allspice, cloves, oregano, garlic, cinnamon.
 
Maedl May 25, 2013
More ideas: young zucchini and horseradish leaves:

http://www.livestrong.com/article/475209-how-to-cook-zucchini-leaves/

http://artofolivegreen.wordpress.com/2012/10/16/horseradish-edible-plant-of-the-year/
 
Maedl May 25, 2013
You can use kohlrabi leaves too. I have a Turkish neighbor who uses them during the winter whEn she can't get fresh grape leaves. I'll bet you could use nasturtium leaves, too.
 
QueenSashy May 24, 2013
You can try swiss chard, you will not get exactly the same flavor, but it is a wonderful dish
 

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Sam1148 May 23, 2013
Make stuffed cabbage leave, or stuff Zucchini--Use an apple corer.
The flavor (aside from the grape leaf flavor) is lemon juice,
olive oil and salty water and some garlic in the steaming water--along with yet more lemon peels in the steaming water.
 
pierino May 23, 2013
You can find them canned through a number of sources. Here is one, http://search.culinarydistrict.com/search?view=grid&w=grape+leaves&x=34&y=7 Odds are that the ones you have tasted in a restaurant were probably tinned.
 
Raquelita May 25, 2013
I'm quite confident the grape leaves were stuffed by the restaurant's cook. Semantic/syntax error in my question makes it seem like I want to use fresh leaves, but what I meant was that I don't always have access to freshly-made stuffed grape leaves and I love them all the time...so how to get that flavor with or without the leaves. Thanks for the source for leaves, though!
 
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