Delicious Dolmathes (Stuffed Grapevine Leaves)

Dolmathes, also known as stuffed grapevine leaves, are a Greek specialty. There are many different variations of this dish, depending on the region of Greece. Some prepare it with an avgolemono (egg and lemon) sauce, others prefer a tomato sauce. Some Greeks cook the dolmathes in a pan in the oven, while others prefer to cook the dolmathes on the stovetop. In this recipe Eva shows us her unique way of preparing this classic Greek dish.

For the Dolmathes:

  • ½ pound of ground beef
  • 1 medium onion (chopped)
  • ¼ cup of chopped parsley
  • ¼ cup of chopped mint
  • 1/3 cup of chopped dill or anise
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • ½ cup of washed and strained uncooked rice
  • 1 tsp of sea salt
  • 1 tsp of black pepper
  • 20-30 grapevine leaves

For the lemon sauce:

  • 1 tablespoon of flour
  • Juice of half a lemon

To begin you need to blanch your grapevine leaves. Some grocery stores sell jars of preserved grapevine leaves, but if you are using fresh leaves you need to blanch them by placing them in a pot of boiling water for about 2-3 minutes then rise with cold water and pat dry.

In a large bowl mix together the ground beef, onion, parsley, mint, anise, egg, olive oil, lemon juice, rice, and salt and pepper.

Once you have mixed these ingredients well you may begin rolling your dolmathes. Place your grapevine leaves face down (smooth side down) on your countertop. Place a ½ teaspoon of mixture at the top of the leaf and roll the leaf by folding in the sides and rolling downwards. Roll the leaves tightly. Repeat until all the mixture has been used up. After you have finished rolling all of the dolmathes, pour about 1 teaspoon of the olive oil in a medium size pot and place your dolmathes (with the seam side down) in the pot. Put the pot on medium heat and let it cook for 2-3 minutes.

In another small pot, bring 2-3 cups of water to a boil. After the water has come to a boil pour it over your dolmathes. Place a small heat-proof plate over your dolmathes and close the lid. Turn the heat down to a light-to-medium heat and let it cook for about 45 minutes. Once it has cooked, remove the dolmathes from the pot and place on a serving plate. Be sure to keep any remaining juice to make the sauce.

To prepare the lemon sauce, mix 1 tablespoon of flour with half a cup of water. Add the juice of half a lemon to the leftover dolmathes juice. Add the flour mixture to this and whisk the mixture well. Let it come to a boil for 1-2 minutes until it thickens. Strain the mixture as you pour it over the dolmathes. Garnish with lemon wedges and serve!

The best focaccine ever

Do you remember what I told you here about using lard? Well after trying it in the piadine, I had to try using some for a yeast bread. So I ventured into trying making some focaccine.

And the result was amazing!

I literally lived on those for two days. I was at home alone (BF was at a conference) with a half empty fridge because I was preparing to leave for Italy, and all I ate for 2 and a half days were those focaccine. They were best the first day, but even on the third they were pretty darn good!

Now I have to go hunt for some more lard! Any suggestions on where to find some good one?

The best focaccine ever! Secret ingredient: #lard #nofilter

Ingredients

  • 1 lb bread flour
  • 3 oz. rendered lard
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp activated dry yeas
  • 1 1/4 cup water
  • olives, cream cheese, herbs and other flavorings for topping (optional)

Directions

  1. In a bowl add the flour and the yeast and mix. Add the water and the salt and start kneading well. Add the lard and keep kneading until you get a smooth, soft, non-sticky dough. If needed add a bit more flour or a bit more water to achieve the right consistency.
  2. Cover the bowl and place to rest until doubled in size (4-8 hours depending on how warm your kitchen is). Remember that for yeast, the slower the rise, the better the flavor and the lighter the final product, so if it super hot, place it in the fridge overnight or cut the amount of yeast.
  3. Once the dough has risen, give it a “turn”: stretch the dough in a long rectangle and fold in thirds. Let rest for half an hour and cut the dough in 9 pieces. Form 9 balls and flatten them, pressing down the center with your hands so that there is a little depression in the center of the round.
  4. Place on a cookie sheet and let rise, while you let the oven warm up to 450F.
  5. If you like it top the focaccine with olives, cream cheese, herbs or other toppings you enjoy.
  6. Bake in the hot oven for about 20 minutes or until golden brown.
  7. Let cool down and enjoy.

Zucchini Oven Fritters

And it is once again time for the Secret Recipe Club reveal. I have to confess this is one of my favorite monthly appointments. It is so much fun tteh

This time I was assigned to Lisa’s blog Cook Lisa Cook. Lisa has some great recipes, and a lot of gluten, diary and egg free recipes because Lisa’s daughter is allergic to all of those things.

When I started to scour her blog for the right recipe, I had a limited pantry of ingredients at my disposal as I was about to leave for my trip home, so I was forced to discard some great recipes such as these Dan Dan noodles or these amazing meatballs, but I will get back to it! In the end I settled on preparing something with Zucchini and choose these zucchini fritters.

Lisa has two versions of the fritters, one egg, gluten and diary free and one regular. I went for a mix of the two, which is gluten and egg free but contains cheese. More than with substitutions, I have worked with omissions. It worked out great! Particularly since I barely had anything in the fridge!

These fritters will make a great side, snack or even main dish and will make even veggie haters gulp down a few.

#SRC: Zucchini Oven Fritters

Ingredients

  • 3 zucchini
  • 3-4 slices pancetta or bacon
  • 3 oz. melting cheese (mozarella or cheddar)
  • Salt and pepper (if needed)

Directions

  1. Grate the zucchini and place ina fine mesh colander. Put a weight on it and try to squeeze out as much water as possible.
  2. Grill or cook the pancetta or bacon until crispy. Pat dry and crumble.
  3. In a bowl grate the cheese, add the squeezed zucchini and the bacon. Mix well, taste and add salt and/or pepper if needed. In my case the pancetta and cheese were salty enough that no extra salt was needed.
  4. Form thin patties and place on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper. Bake in a 400F oven until golden brown and flip. cook until the second side is also golden brown.
  5. Eat hot or cold as you prefer. Adding an egg on top will make this a complete meal.

Pasta alla ricotta e zucchine

Here the first recipe after the break. I like to start slowly, so I am going to go with a simple pasta recipe. One of those recipes that has about 5 ingredients and you can whip together in the time it takes water to boil.

I love it because it is fresh and creamy at the same time and it just feels like comfort food. Anyway, without further ado onto the recipe.

Ingredients

  • 3 oz. pasta
  • 1 zucchini
  • 2 tbs ricotta
  • olive oil
  • thyme
  • ground black pepper
  • salt

Directions

  1. Boil water and cook pasta according to the box instructions. I like to use rotini so that the ricotta can get in the grooves of the pasta.
  2. Meanwhile, cut the zucchini in sticks and cook them by sauteing them in some hot oil. Season the zucchini with salt, pepper and thyme.
  3. Add the ricotta, mix well and immediately turn off the heat.
  4. Add the drained pasta to the sauce adding a spoon or two of the cooking water to dilute the ricotta cream if necessary.
  5. Enjoy!

Zucchine tonde ripiene di quinoa

Before going onto today’s recipe for cheesy, quinoa stuffed round zucchini let me go on a rant I have bottled up for quite sometime on the blogging world. Is a rant inspired by what are known as “haters” which frankly make me want to say “get-a-life”. However I never want to post such comments on a posts because then I’d be a hater’s hater and I’d be doing exactly what I want to criticize. So today I am ranting here. If you just want the recipe, feel free to skip to the bottom!

This morning I was web-stalking one of the bloggers I follow. One of those famous fashion bloggers that travel the world and post beautiful pics in amazing places wearing gorgeous outfits photographed by their handsome boyfriends. Easy to hate, isn’t it? In fact, I run across a number of posts on other blogs and media outlets that were very mean to her. Mainly they attacked her for her style (the my-style-is-so-much-better-than-hers kind of posts), for her past (the now-she-is-all-branded-when-she-had-no-sponsors-she-wore-counterfeits kind of posts), for whom she supposedly owes her success to (the it’s-just-because-she-has-XXXX-behind her kind of posts) and so on. And it got me thinking.

Now, if you look at the whole thing objectively I am sure most people will realize and recognize that 1) although you might personally not like her style obviously another huge group of people like it, 2) we all made bad decision in our lives, only, lucky for us (or for me at least), the Internet was not around or not paying attention (although I am sure if you dug hard enough you could find some pic that I would not be happy to see re-posted…), and 3) whoever stands behind her chose her and not a different blogger.

Now can I pinpoint why she became an internet phenomenon? Obviously not otherwise I would be an Internet phenomenon too (or I would be selling that advice dearly to someone)! At the same time, why should I hate her?

What surprised me was not so much the hate comments. But what about the bloggers posting? They must know how hard it is to be a successful blogger and how easy it is o be hated.

I mean any blogger gets a couple of hate comments even someone with awesome, but few visitors like me (just today I approved a comment that said my food was hillbilly – not sure how to take this one but I don’t think is was meant as a compliment-, but in the past I also got “wouldn’t feed it to a dog” and “not real Italian”). Now there are people that manage to make a living out of their blog thanks to their millions of readers (how amazing is that?), the most I ever earned in a month is a leg of lamb. Yet do some of those bloggers post recipes I don’t like? Of course! Use writing styles I find annoying? Sure! Post pictures that don’t entice me? Well I have to admit I can think of none, but I am sure I could find one if I looked hard enough or if I simply became more critical. But obviously some people like them, actually more people like them than people like me. So those bloggers are better than me, simple as that. And that is a fact no amount of me hating them can change.

Now make no mistake I am by no means sad about my performance as a blogger! I am doing well with my day job and I have fun with my food blog and some of you have fun reading it, so I am good with how thing are. I know I could do things to improve my readership (e.g. post more regularly, promote my blog on social networks more, interact with readers more, take better pics – but I will tell you a secret I have no patience for taking pictures or editing them: I tend to apply the 3 shoots and you are posted rule), but really to me the effort to do it seems to far exceeds the benefit I would get out of it. And again this is what works for me, if I had the ability or the passion or that elusive something some of those bloggers have I would be spending all my time on the blog, I just happen to be better (or more happy) at doing other things.

Anyway, as I said this was just a rant. Now onto serious business: the recipe. This is the first time I cooked quinoa. I have been looking at recipes and never found quite the right one, then stuffing clicked and I decided to use it to stuff round zucchini. I added some cream cheese for creaminess and some anchovies and sardines for taste and baked it all. Turned out pretty good!

Zucchine tonde ripiene di quinoa

Ingredients

  • 4 round zucchini
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1/2 cup cream cheese
  • 1 tin sardines
  • 20 anchovies
  • 2 eggs
  • parmesan

Directions

  1. Microwave the zucchini for about 8 minutes. Let them cool down.
  2. Cook the quinoa in 2 cups of lightly salted, boiling water for about 20 minutes or until translucent and soft.
  3. Cut the top of the zucchini and carve most of the pulp out using a spoon. Place the pulp in a colander and invert the zucchini on a cookie rack so that you can get rid of most of the moisture of the zucchini.
  4. In a bowl, mix the drained and diced zuchini pulp, the quinoa, the eggs, the cheese, the sardines and the diced anchovies. Season with salt if needed. Use the mixture to stuff the zucchini.
  5. Arrange the zucchini in an oven dish and sprinkle with plenty of parmesan, cover with the zucchini cap and bake in the oven for about 30 minutes at 375F.
  6. If needed turn on the broiler for the last few minutes so that the top of the stuffing can crisp up.
  7. Serve warm.