Archive for July, 2018

More Free Food-Stuffed Wild Grape Leaves

July 17, 2018

Wild Grape Vines

High summer, high heat, high humidity. Everything’s lushly green and growth pushes garden fences. Weeds abound and wild things encroach. I used to collect bowls of mulberries along my walk through the play field until the park district removed the low branches. Yet still wild grape vines cover fences and climb tree trunks. Before the Japanese beetles chew them to bits, gather ye grape leaves while ye may. They are edible; they are free.

Grape leaves play a role is all Mediterranean cuisines. They cover fish for grilling, line pots for steaming and most notably hold rice or meat fillings for Greek Dolmades. Stuffed grape leaves make welcome appetizers, picnic food or casual snacks to keep in the fridge. You may buy prepared grape leaves in jars in supermarkets, or you may take a basket, scissors and clip some on a morning walk when it’s cool. Check the vines making sure you see a few tentative green grapes forming along the stems to insure you’re into the proper plant. When nibbled grape leaves are tart.

Filling Leaves

To prepare for filling, cut any excess stem from the leaves and blanch them for two to three minutes in boiling, salted water. Once drained and cooled, the leaves may be stacked, wrapped and refrigerated or frozen.

Lamb or beef fillings are common, but rice is a good keeper and accessible for a wider range of food preferences. Made with organic brown rice, lots of fresh herbs and good olive oil, stuffed grape leaves are delicious to eat, highly nutritious and a summer’s delight.

Stuffed Wild Grape Leaves

24-30 grape leaves

Ready to Steam

½ cup brown rice (organic round grain if possible)

1/8 teaspoon turmeric (optional)

1 tablespoon olive oil

2/3 cup finely chopped onion

1-2 cloves garlic, minced

a few slices chopped green chili (optional)

¼ cup chopped dill, parsley or mint

2 tablespoons currants (or 1 T each chopped dried tart cherries and raisins)

salt to taste

Ready to Eat

Juice ¼ lemon

Additional olive oil

Trim stems from grape leaves, blanch is boiling water and cool. The leaves will lose their bright green color and turn drab; that happens to greens with acid content. Grape leaves taste tart.

Cook rice with turmeric and pinch of salt until tender but not mushy. (A rice cooker is perfect here; cook 1cup rice to make the cooker work properly–freeze half for the next batch of stuffed leaves or use for rice salad.) Gently saute onion in 1tablespoon olive oil until soft and translucent. Add garlic and optional chili the last couple minutes.  Combine 1 heaped cup cooked rice, cooked onion, chopped herbs, currants and salt to taste.

On a clean counter or cutting board, place one grape leave at a time vein side (underside) up. Use a heaped teaspoon of filling centered in the lower third of the grape leaf. Fold the stem end up, the sides in and continue to roll up like a mini burrito. Line a heavy pot with three grape leaves and place the filled grape leaves snugly together in the pot. Make two layers of filled leaves if necessary. Sprinkle the rolls with juice of a quarter of a lemon, top with three more leaves. Sprinkle over a scant half-cup of water. Place a saucer on top to weight down and then the pot lid. Steam the filled leaves over low heat for a good half an hour. Remove lid, lift off saucer and cool. Before removing from the pot, drizzle over a generous twirl of good olive oil. Serve cold or at room temperature. Makes 20-24 dolmades