Line your pot with the stuffed leaves, stacking tightly into multiple layers. Once you've rolled them all, you add 2 1/3 cups water to the pan, bring it to a boil over medium heat, then lower the heat and simmer, covered (over low) for about an hour. Test one at 45 minutes and as soon as the rice is cooked but not mushy, they are done. The ticket to these is serving them warm with TONS of fresh squeezed lemon juice over the top. If you don't think you're a fan of these, chances are that you're WRONG. They are unbelievably delicious!
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
So it has been 13 days since my last post which is a bit sad. John's been gone all month and frankly, I haven't done much cooking as a result. I got a serious itch last week however and decided to cook up a Mediterranean feast for some of my girl friends. As I mentioned a few posts ago, I actually grew up in Saudi Arabia so Arab food in particular is near and dear to my heart. I'm not really an aficionado but we definitely had some basic staples in our house growing up. I had about 12 girls over so I decided on some heavy finger foods or meze as they call it in the Middle East. I mixed in some Greek favorites as well to be sure that my not-so-adventurous eaters were covered too. Planning a cocktail (well just wine really) party for a Thursday night is tricky when you work full time so I had to lay my preparations out carefully. I did my grocery shopping on Monday night and prepped what I could Tuesday and Wednesday nights so that I could come home Thursday to just the final touches. I also had to find a balance of store bought, semi-store bought and from scratch menu items to make it manageable. The Menu: Prosciutto Wrapped Dates Brie and Manchego Cheese plate with Fig Jam and Toasted Pine Nuts Spanikopita Triangles Lamb and Rice Stuffed Grapeleaves Tzatziki Dip with Crudite Roasted Red Pepper Hummus and Baba Ganoush with Naan Bread and Pita Chips Pistachio Baklava First up, prosciutto wrapped dates. I prefer the medjool dates as they are typically large, easy to pit and perfectly chewy. Whole Foods actually has them in the produce section in containers alongside the prepared fruit (cut up melon, berries, etc). I bought the large container and used about 30 dates total which was plenty. To pit them you just make a slit length-wise into the date and pull the pit out (very easy) If you really want to do it right, put a toasted slivered almond in its place.) I then took about 12 or so slices of prosciutto di parma, sliced each piece into two or three long strips and wrapped them around the dates. I put them into an airtight container to be baked at 375 degrees for 12 minutes or so as my friends arrived. (I had them wrapped and ready to go Tuesday night). The salty-sweet-chewy combo is really fantastic. Wednesday night, I tackled the lamb and rice stuffed grapeleaves. This was a FAVORITE in our house growing up. The recipe we use actually came from a little Lebanese restaurant in Pittsburgh called Samarenis that my parents frequented back before marriage days. My sister Annie and I learned how to help Mom roll these when we were itty bitty. The filling is very simple. I lb of ground lamb, 1/2 stick of melted butter, 1 cup basmati rice (uncooked), 1 tsp salt and a generous amount of cracked black pepper. You mix it all together with your hands until its combined. You can find the grapeleaves themselves at most grocery stores these days, just take them out of the jar (16 oz) and rinse them in a colander. Immediately set a few aside to line the bottom of the med-sized saucepan that they cook in. You lay each leaf out with the stem side up and closest to your body (remove the stem). Shape about a teaspoon of the filling into a finger shape and place it in the lower/center of the leaf (right where the stem was), fold each side of the leaf in and then roll the whole thing up to to the top.Also prepped on Wed night was the Tzatziki Dip. I used one medium sized container (about 2 cups) of Fage 2% Greek Yogurt and added 1 cup of grated English cucumber (squeezed dry with paper towels), two garlic cloves finely minced, 1/4 cup or so of fresh chopped parsley, a couple of tablespoons of fresh dill, salt and pepper... I actually threw the garlic into the food processor while running, then added my parsley and chopped it all up together. It then needs seasoned well with salt and pepper. I served it with baby carrots, slices of yellow and red bell pepper, coins of fresh zucchini and sugar snap peas. It is cool and refreshing served just as a dip like this but would be great on a pita, or alongside grilled meats too. This was my first stab at Baba Ganoush... and I'm not sure it was entirely successful actually. I made it the night before and I think the extra refrigeration time kind of changed the texture (not in a good way). I used an Ellie Krieger recipe found of foodtv.com (probably wouldn't get an A+ for authenticity but the dish isn't overly complicated to begin with.) www.foodnetwork.com/.../ellie-krieger/babaganoush.../index.html I chopped my parsley and some garlic in the food processor for this too and when pureed with the eggplant, the whole thing gleaned a green hue to it that some might not find extremely appetizing. Next time I would first puree my eggplant in a CLEAN food processor and then pulse the parsley in quickly at the end. I would also serve it immediately to preserve the creamy texture. All in all the flavor was good though! The Cheese Plate was very simple so I did that just before my girls arrived. I placed a large wedge of 9-month aged manchego and a wedge of French brie on a cheese board. I then topped the brie with store bought fig jam (in the cheese section at Whole Foods) and then sprinkled toasted pine nuts over the top and arranged some Carr water crackers around. Brie with Fig Spread could be breakfast, lunch, dinner or dessert for me ANY DAY- I am utterly obsessed with it! The pine nuts add a nice crunch and of course nutty flavor too- I've used slivered almonds in the past as well. The Hummus came from Whole Foods (why fix it when it ain't broke) and the Spanikopita from the freezer section at Harris Teeter (Costo carries a larger box and its MUCH cheaper, didn't get over there this time though.) Again, to put out 8 dishes for 10+ people on a weeknight, you've got to improvise a little! And then... there was the BAKLAVA! You're going to think I'm nuts but my parents have been ordering from Masri sweets out of Detroit, MI (largest Muslim population in the country) for years. It is the closest we've found to the real thing and they ship it right to your doorstep for cheap!!! If I could have two pieces of Baklava with my morning coffee everyday for the rest of my life... I would be the happiest (and chubbiest) girl around! Our favorite is the traditional pistachio though they offer a few other kinds too. I ordered a half tray (24 pieces) and then cut the pieces in half for the ladies. My mom once told me if you cut something in half, the calories can leak out so two halves is better for you than one whole. =) I borrowed this pic from their website. I have a few pics from the evening to post soon. I was a bit preoccupied getting all of the food out before people arrived and then of course the wine and conversation took my attention so I only caught a few pics mid-party. All in all a great time!!!! and the food was decent too...
Posted by Accidental Syrup at 2:11 PM