There is a foodie magazine in the area, Edible Front Range, that I contribute articles to occasionally. It’s a wonderful magazine filled with interesting stories on local food and their blog is always fun to read. Last year I added the following post on making your own Greek-style dolmades, the little grape leaf rolls commonly served as appetizers. Here it is for you, in case you have grape vines that need a little pruning:
If you grow grapes like I do, you’ve probably noticed that the wet weather has turned those well-behaved plants into The Vines That Ate The Neighborhood. Though grown dry, grapes actually love water, taking all we can give them; the result is wild, uncontrollable growth.
Instead of hanging demurely on the trellis, the shoots are running rampant – cascading over fences, coiling around perennials, and throttling the competition. These plants are out of control – I live in fear of them grabbing small pets or compact cars as they go by.
The choice is simple: either let the grapes terrorize the neighborhood or give them a haircut. While the first is amusing, the plants can’t tell friend from foe and my own garage is being swallowed whole. They must be stopped, so armed with shears on a sunny day, and I marched forth to prune. Sixty minutes of clipping, snipping, and flailing later, I stared at the pile of cuttings.
Slowly a delicious thought formed: it’s time for Greek dolmades.
Don’t groan – those over-pickled, canned stuffed grape leaves can’t hold a candle to the light, savory flavor of fresh dolmades and they’re surprisingly easy to make. That stack of shoots was ideal for the job, because those leaves were young, soft, and medium-sized.
Bright eyed and eager to try something new, I took the vines into the kitchen, piled them on the counter and commenced diving into cookbooks for recipes. Yet tome after tome was silent on the subject, as if Greek cooking was too complex for words. But the leaves were waiting, so I did what every red-blooded cook has done through the ages – I panicked. Then I called my friend for help.
She’d seen dolmades made from fresh leaves once, and rummaged about until she found the recipe. Preparation is simple – just clip the petiole of the leaf off, wash them gently, and par boil them for three minutes. Plunge them into ice water immediately to cool.
The stuffing’s just a bit of rice, dried currants, pine nuts and herbs from my garden, all boiled together with water and lemon juice. After it cools to room temperature, you fill and roll the leaves, drizzle them with olive oil and lemon juice, and bake them.
All told, it only took an hour and was much easier than pruning. And the result was light, delicately flavored hors d’oeuvres fit for a fancy event or simple gathering of friends.
If you’re not growing grapes, ask your friends if they have some leaves to spare – 40 are perfect for the recipe, but it feeds a crowd. Use only leaves from edible grapes, not ornamentals. Make sure the plant hasn’t been sprayed with pesticide, and use the leaves the same day they’re picked.
Check out the recipes at What’s Cooking America.