Tuesday, December 25, 2007
Get stuffed! Stuffed Grape Leaves, that is...
"They look real! Like real grape leaves! Like, real grape leaves you'd eat at a restaurant!"
When trying to pose as a seasoned and well accomplished cook *cough ahem snort* one probably shouldn't act completely shocked and surprised when a dish actually turns out looking and tasting delicious.
But it's so hard not to. I mean look at those grape leaves! I want to reach out and pinch their little perfect-looking grape leaf cheeks. "Who's mommy's little grape leaf? You are! Oh yes you are!"
As some of you may know, I am involved in a top secret cooking club (don't worry gang! no one really reads the Internet) that aims to meet once a month. We rotate homes, and the host gets to pick the cuisine of the month, and we all cook together in perfect harmony. Usually. I mean, there has only been one fatal knife fight.
Anyway, this month's theme was Greek -- hence the adorable stuffed grape leaves. They turned out amazing, if I do say so myself. Better than any I've ever had. I stuffed them with savory cumin-scented Jasmine rice, studded with caramelized onions, garlic, toasted pine nuts, and a flurry of fresh farmers market mint and parsley.
The white sauce drizzled on top (we drizzled for the photo, but in "real life" we plunged the little bundles deep into the sauce bowl) is plain yogurt marinated with more fresh chopped mint, black pepper and chopped raw garlic.
Here's the recipe I used:
*Note: I omitted the currents (wasn't in a sweet mood) and substituted vegetable broth for the chicken (accommodating a vegetarian). I bought the grape leaves at The Souk in Pike Place Market, & the 28-leaf jar was the perfect amount.
As for some of the other cooking accomplishments of the night, that's a triangle of spanikopita posing sexily next to my PERFECT grape leaves. Nice lookin' couple dontcha think? Maker-of-spanikopita over-baked her dish by *gasp* four whole minutes and deemed her spinach/cheese pie "too crispy." I found it to be internally luscious and appropriately flaky.
But reader? The kitchen wasn't all rainbows and lollipops that night. There was a true Greek tragedy. Actually it was just the sort of kitchen blunder you'd expect from Uncle Jesse on an episode of Full House.
Ever notice how salt and sugar look exactly the same? No, really, they do. Well, one cooking club member has learned that valuable lesson. His entire batch of baklava was ruined when he seasoned it up with a cup and a half of salt. As you can see from the photo, we ripped our little claws through the bad baklava, looking for secret pockets of sweet. There were none. It was disgusting.
We ate stuffed grape leaves for dessert instead.