Stuffed onion with vegetable spiced rice is a unique and flavorful dish that’s easy to make but no one would ever believe it!
Like I mentioned on my Instagram (@sweetpillarfood), I’m so excited to have finally tried this after so long! Growing up I was very accustomed to stuffed grape leaves; 2 kinds, one with meat and one more lemony (yabraa and yalangee we called them), stuffed zucchini, eggplant, cabbage, artichoke hearts etc. It always seemed so difficult and time consuming, and it was, time consuming more than difficult. Especially that the dishes were being made to serve so many people.
All homes had special coring utensils to use to core the zucchini and a particular way to roll the grape leaves. It was a full neighborhood affair and it happened frequently. In fact, I just got off the phone with my mom who said her two friends were over rolling grape leaves together and she’s planning on making stuffed grape leaves tonight, hours before she has a flight to catch to come visit me! I was shocked she was even cooking let alone making grape leaves but she insisted she had fun with her two friends as they talked and caught up, they finished rolling the grape leaves before she knew it.
Anyway, so here I am, living in my own little stuffed vegetable world, thinking I’ve tried every vegetable that was to be stuffed when I meet an older Chaldean Iraqi lady that spoke wonders of all these other vegetables she was stuffing. Chaldeans for those that are not familiar have an extremely rich history that dates back to before Christ. They are descendants of the Babylonian and Assyrian civilizations and the Aramean legacy or Mesopotamia. To this day they speak in addition to Arabic, Chaldean which is essentially Aramaic, a slightly different dialect than that spoken by Jesus Christ. How amazing is that?? To speak the same language Jesus Christ spoke!
An old time art, not forgotten…
So she told me they stuff carrots, onions and potatoes to name a few. I was so intrigued that I looked more into it and found a recipe floating around the internet that I unfortunately couldn’t find again of a Syrian Jewish recipe of stuffed onions with dried apricots. Syrian Jewish cuisine is slightly different then traditional Syrian cuisine mainly because of religious dietary restrictions. For example, in Jewish cuisine, dairy and meat are not to be combined so that eliminates some dishes that are common amongst other Syrians.
I finally decided to give it a go and mixed together my knowledge of stuffed grape leaves and just started creating. It turned out to be much easier then stuffing any of the other vegetables because the onions were so easy to peel. In Damascus, it is not common to mix dried fruit in savory dishes so the result of this dish did not taste like any of my mom or grandmothers dishes. But in other parts of the Middle East, including other parts of Syria like Aleppo for example, mixing dried fruit is very common. I happen to be a big fan of sweet and savory so I thought it tasted amazing. The sauce thickened and became a glaze like sauce. The onion was so soft and tender full of flavor. I urge you to try this and please let me know how it turns out!!
Make an incision before boiling them so they’re easy to separate
- 2 large onions
- 1/2 cup Basmati rice
- 1 Tomato diced
- 1/2 tablespoon dry mint
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- Pinch of red pepper flakes or chilli powder
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste (1 for filling 1 for sauce)
- 1/2 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
- 2 tablespoon chopped parsley
- 2 tablespoon lemon juice (1 for filling 1 for sauce)
- 2 cups vegetable broth
- 3 dates chopped
- 2 garlic sliced
- Make a one inch incision in the onion and place into boiling water for 8-10 minutes
- Remove from boiling water and once they are cooled separate the layers and set aside
- You're only going to be stuffing the first 4-6 larger layers
- Chop the remaining onion
- Heat oil over medium heat
- Add onion stir for few minutes
- Lower heat to low, add rice and stir for few minutes
- Add tomato paste, dry mint, cinnamon, salt and pepper, pinch of red pepper or chilli, pomegranate molasses, diced tomatoes, parsley and lemon juice
- Mix everything together over low heat for 3-5 minutes
- Scoop roughly 1 tablespoon of filling into each onion
- Wrap around and assemble neatly in pot
- Top the onions with dates (any dried fruit you like) and garlic
- In separate bowl, mix vegetable broth, tomato paste and lemon juice. Salt to taste
- Place a heat proof plate on top of the onions in the pot (this will help keep them in tact)
- Pour the sauce over them
- Cook on low heat for 60 minutes