This month’s Daring Cooks challenge was perfectly timed. Since we got back from our trip to Turkey (in June), I’ve been trying to get myself to make something from the cookbook I bought. I made one dish, but it didn’t look great in the photos so I didn’t post about it (maybe next time).
Fast forward to September 17th, when I checked the recipe posting for October — stuffed grape leaves. Yay! I’ve been wanting to make the recipe for Zeytinyağlı Yaprak Dolmasi (Olive Oil Stuffed Grape Leaves) from my cookbook, and now I had the chance! Today’s is a combo post – an entry for my Turkish Food Log, and an entry for the Daring Cooks.
We got to eat LOTS of different kinds of dolma – stuffed vegetables. Of course, they do fantastic stuffed grape leaves, but they also have stuffed peppers, eggplants, tomatoes, and more! The highlight for me was certainly the stuffed grape leaves with sour cherry inside. Sadly, I can’t remember where I had those – I didn’t take a photo of it! (Booo!) Sour cherries were in season during our visit, so it wasn’t hard to find sour cherries at the buffet, sour cherry juice, or desserts. The stuffed grape leaves were something different for me, though.
The first challenge was to find some grape leaves. We biked over to Kensington Market and went to Akram’s… just my luck, they only had a really big jar. Luckily, J brought his messenger bag, so I made him carry the jar. It will take at least 2 more batches for me to get through the whole jar. They’re in brine, so I hope they don’t go bad any time soon.
When I unfurled the newly de-stemmed leaf, I found that it looked kind of like a maple leaf. How Canadian! Just kidding… I didn’t try to make a Canadian version of the dish. I wanted to stick to the recipe in the Turkish cookbook as much as possible. The interesting thing is that the ingredients were almost exactly the same as the recipe suggested for the challenge – the method of preparation was a little different, though.
I was a little bit worried that I would tear the grape leaves, but they were quite resilient. I was able to roll most of them pretty tightly, and I was impressed with the way they looked. This reminds me a bit of when I make pasta or sushi, or recently the pierogi. It takes some time and patience to sit and assemble the stuffed grape leaves, but it’s therapeutic and gives me time to think while I work.
Since I couldn’t find any sour cherries, I tried adding some cranberries to a few of the rolls. Surprisingly, it tasted pretty fun! Next year, when the sour cherries are in season, I’m going to have to try adding some.
I served them cold, with some other Turkish and Middle Eastern finger foods, mezze-style. We loved the mix of spices and herbs, and the tangy taste of the grape leaves.
Our October 2010 hostess, Lori of Lori’s Lipsmacking Goodness, has 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.
Zeytinyağlı Yaprak Dolmasi
Adapted from the recipe found in Turkish Cookery.
- 1 cup long grain rice (I used white basmati)
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 3/4 cup olive oil
- 1 medium tomato, finely diced
- 1/8 cup pine nuts
- 1/8 cup dried currants
- 1/8 cup cranberries (cooked, or dried and soaked) (optional)
- 3 tbsp fresh mint, finely chopped (or 1 tbsp dried)
- 1/3 – 1/2 cup fresh dill, chopped
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp allspice
- 40 – 50 medium sized grape leaves, stems removed
- 1/2 lemon
- If working with grape leaves stored in brine, rinse well and soak in boiling water for about 20 minutes to wash the salt off of it.
- Cover the rice with lukewarm water and let cool. Pour the water out, wash well and drain.
- In a deep sauté pan, brown the onion, nuts, currants and 1 tsp of the salt in the olive oil. Cook on medium heat for about 20 minutes, stirring regularly.
- Add the drained rice and toast for about 10 minutes.
- Add the tomato, the rest of the salt, pepper
and 1/4 cup of warm water. Mix well and cover. Bring to the boil and turn the heat down. Let simmer for 10-15 minutes, until the water is absorbed.
- Add the herbs and spices. Cover with a clean cloth and put the lid back on top of the cloth. Leave to steam for about a half an hour. Mix well with a wooden spoon.
- Place a grape leaf on a plate. Put 1/2 tablespoon of filling on the widest part (near the base – see image above). Place a few cranberries in a row (optional).
- Fold the two sides over and roll, continuing to tuck the sides in to keep it tidy.
- Place rolls tightly side by side in a saucepan. Add lemon juice and 1 cup of water. Place a small lid or plate on top of the rolls to weigh it down. Cover and cook on low heat for one hour, until the water is absorbed.
- Let cool.