Monday, 20 May 2013

Vegetarian Dolmades

Sharing an office at work is a little like living with someone. We share a space that's often where one goes to retreat from others.  It's been over five years that I've been shacking up with my sweet friend Norma at work and I wouldn't change a thing. Happily for me, we have a lot in common.  She loves food, children and a good laugh.  That's probably all I needed, but she's got even more going for her!  Generous to a fault, she gives her time, her ideas and compassion with me and all the clients we work with.  Every morning she greets me with a smile, asks how the kids are this morning and often, what is that beautiful lunch you just pulled out?  A grandma who has raised her own, I love to hear the wisdom she shares when I complain about my kids or hubby.

We share recipes and samples of food. She loves to try new things almost as much as me.  If I'm planning a dinner party or menu for an event, she always knows every course, every detail and weighs in on what needs to be altered.   For years Norma has been bringing stuffed grape leaves into work whenever the mood hits her.  I've been begging her to make me a batch to take home, but so far, no luck.  I can't pretend these taste as good as hers, but they're pretty close.  Served with tzatziki sauce, they make an excellent appetizer or lunch. 
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Vegetarian Dolmades

Notes: I like to blanch the leaves so they are not too salty from the brine.  This step can be skipped.  Don't fill the leaves too much or they will tear in the rolling.  If they tear, simply use a second leaf to repair the hole.

adapted from Saveur

5 Tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp. minced celery
1 clove garlic, minced
1⁄2 medium onion, minced
1⁄2 cup brown basmati rice
1⁄2 tsp. ground cumin
1⁄4 cup minced fresh mint
1⁄4 cup minced fresh parsley
1/4 tsp cinnamon
14-20 grape leaves in brine, drained (use spares for repairs)
1⁄4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 cup water

Optional: Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add grape leaves and cook for 2 minutes. Drain leaves, stem them, and set them aside.  (I laid them out on a tea towel so they didn't continue cooking and become soggy).
Heat 2 tbsp. oil in a frying pan on medium-high heat. Add celery, garlic, and onions and cook until soft, about 3–4 minutes. Add rice; toast for 3 minutes. Add cumin and cinnamon and 1 1⁄2 cups water; season with salt and pepper. Boil; reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until rice has absorbed water, 12–15 minutes. Stir in parsley, and mint. Let cool slightly.
Cover the bottom of a large pot with 3–4 grape leaves. Place remaining grape leaves on counter. Working with one grape leaf at a time, flatten leaf and place 2 tsp. rice mixture in the centre. Fold the bottom side of the leaf over the rice mixture and then fold the right and left sides over the top. Roll package to create a tight cylinder and transfer stuffed grape leaf, seam side down, to the pot. Repeat with remaining grape leaves and rice mixture, fitting rolled packets snugly in the bottom of the pot. Whisk 3 Tbsp oil, lemon juice, and 1 cup water in a medium bowl and add to the pot. Cover stuffed leaves with a small plate to keep them submerged; bring liquid to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until the rice filling is tender, 15–20 minutes. Remove plate and transfer stuffed leaves to a serving dish.  Serve hot or at room temperature with tzatziki sauce.

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