Middle Eastern Maki Rolls

I was recently put into a situation where I needed to present myself on a plate.  In the middle of the night, I thought of modernizing the traditional rolled grape leave.  You can find the traditional recipe (here).

The Middle Easter Maki Roll recipe was carefully tested and perfected by some of my foodie friends.  The cauliflower in the recipe really changes up the taste of the traditional maki roll and brings in a more earthy taste, while also adding texture.  The tzatziki and tahini sauce compliment the roll perfectly by giving it a creamy texture, yet tart taste.  Although it’s not the simplest recipe, it’s well worth the time it takes to create it.

Maki Roll:

Jared rolled grape leaves, rinse and stems removed

¼ head of cauliflower

½ lb ground lamb

1 lemon juiced

2 TBs canned tomato sauce

½ cup bulgur


12 mint leaves

1 small pickling cuke finely chopped

1 tsp dried mint leaves

2-3 springs of parsley, picked, washed and dried

salt and pepper to taste

For the Tzatziki sauce:  Recipe link (here)

For the Tahini sauce:  Recipe link (here)


Remove grape leaves from the bottle and unroll them.  Soak grape leaves for 5-10 minutes in cool water.  In a bowl add hot tap water and soak the bulgur 5-10 minutes to soften it.  While the grape leaves and bulgur are soaking roughly cut the cauliflower and place it in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped with the consistence of rice. Time to get your hands dirty, mix lamb, bulgur, tomato sauce and salt and pepper to taste.  

Now for the fun part, place the grape leaf with the point facing away from you.  Put a heaping teaspoon of the cauliflower in the center of the leaf and then top with a teaspoon of the lamb mixture in the lower middle half of the leaf and shape into a log shape.  Then, fold over one side of the grape leaf, then the other and somewhat tightly roll the leaf away from you.  Place the leaf in a deep saucepan.  Although it’s time consuming, it’s fun to use your hands and the final result is well worth it!  Once all leaves are rolled, add water and lemon juice.  Place a dish on top of the leaves to make ensure they stay under the liquid.  Bring to a boil and then simmer for 20-25 minutes.  I think they taste best the next day, but you can serve them immediately.  For helpful pictures on how to roll grape leaves click (here).

In a Mortar and Pestle, add dried mint and salt and grind together.  Finely chop the pickling cuke.

Make sauces- links above.

Heat canola or veggie oil to 325 degrees. Add mint leaves and remove after they float up top, about 2 minutes.  Place on paper towel and drain excess oil.

Once rolled grape leaves are slightly cooled then cut the grape leaves ends off.  Then cut the rolls in thirds.  Stand the rolls up, top with tzatziki, chopped cukes, and one fried mint leaf.  For the second roll, stand up, top with tahini sauce and a mint leaf.

Plating Tip: Because you want a simple dollop of sauce, place the sauce in zip-lock bag and cut off a small corner, squeeze the bag to get out the sauce.

This is a winning recipe! Trust me!