For as long as humans have walked the earth, we’ve eaten from it. As our population grows and our ability to provide for it diminishes, less and less of what we eat is in fact food. However, the good stuff has staying power and today I am making some of the same foods enjoyed by those, as far back as the Ottoman Empire. Stuffed grape leaves (known in Greece as dolmas) and tabbouleh are two of my favorite snacks and better yet, they are incredibly easy to make.
Vegetarian Dolmas AKA Stuffed Grape Leaves (makes about 40)
1 jar of grape leaves (16 oz jar)
1/3 cup of (uncooked) white rice
1 medium onion finely chopped
1/3 cup finely chopped parsley
1/8 cup finely chopped mint
1/8 cup finely chopped dill
1/8 cup finely chopped thyme
(This is the herb combination I use, but you can play around with it. You want at least 1/2 cup of something fresh from the herb garden. The fresh thyme and dill you can replace with dried)
1/2 cup dried currents
2 table spoons finely chopped walnuts
1/2 teaspoon of cumin
Salt and pepper
2 cups stock (I use leek broth for its buttery flavor, but you can substitute vegetable stock)
First you want to take the leave out of the jar. Unroll, remove the steams and thickest part of the veins. Allow to soak in water for about a 1/2 hour. Separate and pat dry.
In a bowl, mix together the rice, onion, herbs, currents, walnuts, 1 teaspoon each of salt and pepper and about 3 table spoons of olive oil.
Lay the leaves out one at a time adding a spoon-full of the mixture. Tucking the ends in (kind of like a burrito or a cigar) roll up and place in a heavy dutch oven, seam side down.
Pack the dolmas together in a single layer. followed by a second layer. Drizzle the broth over top. Take a few unused leaves and spreed on top. then place a small ceramic dish, adding weight to aid cooking. Cover the pot and simmer over low heat for about 45 minutes, check after 30 minutes to ensure their is enough broth to continue to simmer. The leaves will begin to expand as the rice absorbs moisture. They should be soft and plump when ready to eat.
Tabbouleh (serves 4)
3 bunches of flat leaf parsley, washed, stems trimmed and chopped (the degree is up to you, I use a pretty course chop as that is how my mother taught me)
1 bunch mint, chopped
1 large tomato, cored and diced (I tend to add a little extra)
1 small red onion, finely chopped or
1 bunch green onions, chopped
1/3 cup of cous cous (bulgar, and quinoa also work well)
The juice of 2 lemons
Salt and Pepper
I cook the cous cous before hand as I like it to be cooled before mixing. Boil 2 cups of water, add cous cous and reduce to covered simmer. Cook for about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and any excess water and allow to cool to room temp. In a bowl combine parsley (make sure its dried after being washed), mint, onion, 3-4 table spoons of olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste.
Add in the cous cous a heaping wooden spoonful at a time and mix together. Finally, add the lemon juice a table spoon at a time, to taste.