The October Daring Cooks’ challenge was hosted by Lori of Lori’s Lipsmacking Goodness, who challenged The Daring Cooks to stuff grape leaves. Lori chose a recipe from Aromas of Aleppo and a recipe from The New Book of Middle Eastern Food.
A lot of you have wondered recently how I manage to do everything I do: work full-time, study part-time towards my PhD, work towards my Food and the Media Certificate at George Brown College, run an after-school cooking club, freelance for Food Network Canada and The Mushroom Channel and take part in the various blogging challenges – Daring Cooks and Bakers, French Fridays with Dorie, Kitchen Bootcamp, International Incident, Mactweets and RSVP Redux (geez, if that’s not The Next Food Blog Star material, I don’t know what is…).
Well, there is no big secret - I am just pretty organised. I manage my time well and part of time management these days is meal planning on the weekends. What often ends up happening is that we enjoy a wide variety of “challenge foods” in one meal, which is exactly what happened last weekend on Canadian Thanksgiving. We had this Daring Cooks starter followed by turkey with an RSVP Redux side and a French Fridays with Dorie dessert… Thankfully our lovely neighbours who always come over for Thanksgiving were happy to be food blog recipe guinea pigs and each of the dishes was a huge success!
These stuffed vine leaves were fairly labour intensive but a nice way to spend the morning as I watched Neil deal with our “small” 14lb turkey.
I soaked the vine leaves and prepared the (vegetarian) filling…
Adapted from Claudia Roden’s The New Book of Middle Eastern Food
Ingredients for 6-8 servings
24 – 30 preserved or fresh grape leaves.
1¼ cups (300 ml) (9 oz) (250 gm) long grain rice
1- 3 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1 large onion, finely chopped or 4 tablespoons (60 ml) (35 gm) finely chopped scallions
2 tablespoons (30 ml) (25 gm) finely chopped flat leaf parsley
2 tablespoons (30 ml) (15 gm) crushed dried mint
¼ teaspoon (1¼ ml) (1½ gm) ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon (1¼ ml) (1½ gm) ground allspice
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (6½ gm) dill
Salt and pepper
2 tomatoes, sliced **optional**
3 or 4 cloves garlic
2/3 cup (160 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (5 gm) sugar
Juice of 1 lemon or more
If using grape leaves preserved in brine, to remove salt put them in a bowl and pour boiling water over them. Make sure that the water penetrates well between the layers, and leave them soaking for about twenty minutes, then change the water a time or two using fresh cold water. If using fresh leaves, plunge a few at a time in boiling water for a few seconds only, until they become limp, and lift them out.
1. Pour boiling water over the rice and stir well, then rinse with cold water and let drain.
2. Mix the rice with the chopped tomatoes, onion or scallion, parsley, mint, cinnamon, allspice,
dill, salt and pepper to taste.
3. Place a grape leaf on a flat surface, vein side up.
4. Place about two teaspoons (10 ml) of the filling in the center of the leaf, near the stem edge.
5. Roll the leaf end to end, starting from the stem edge. As you roll, fold the sides of the leaf in toward the center. The leaf should resemble a small cigar, about 2 to 2 1/2 inches (50 mm to 65mm) long.
6. Repeat with the remaining leaves and filling.
a. (You can freeze the stuffed grape leaves at this point. Just line a baking sheet with wax paper. When firmly frozen, transfer to an airtight plastic bag place back in the freezer.)
7. Pack the stuffed leaves tightly in a large pan lined with tomato slices or imperfect grape leaves. Place a whole garlic clove in between them for extra flavor. The tightness will help prevent the rolls from unraveling.
8. Mix together olive oil, 2/3 cup (160 ml) water, sugar and lemon juice and pour over the stuffed leaves. Put a small heat proof plate on top of the leaves to prevent them from unwinding, cover the pan and simmer very gently for about 1 hour, until the rolls are thoroughly cooked, adding water occasionally, a cup at a time, as the liquid in the pan becomes absorbed. Cool in the pan before turning out. Serve cold.
Ah yes, the dreaded rolling and fear of unravelling. I found the vine leaves a tricky shape to work with but after a few of them I got the hang of it..
And as you can see, I didn’t have a pan the correct size to keep them tightly packed but they seemed to be ok. Unlike the recipe says, there was never any point where the oil/ lemon juice/ water mix dried out and, in fact, a couple of the smaller ones fried on the bottom a little. No matter, I served them with a sprinkle of lemon zest and some roughly chopped mint and a squeeze of lemon juice. And they tasted pretty darned amazing. A dish I would definitely try again now I have figured out the rolling and folding part!
If you liked my last Project Food Blog entry – a step-by step demystification of chicken tikka masala, I would appreciate your vote to go to Round 5. I have a great idea for a “pizza remix” – you definitely want to see it. Voting ends at 6PM Pacific Time today, October 14th. Simply click here to vote. You have to be a Foodbuzz member to vote but it’s a simple sign-up process. Once you’re signed up, click the red heart to vote. Thanks in advance.
Disclosure: The gorgeous bamboo disposable serving dish of the end result was provided at no cost by RestaurantWare.com. If you would like to order your own bamboo tableware with 10% off, use the code eatlivetravelwrite at checkout.