Tuesday, July 17, 2007

7 Random Cookbooks - 1 Random Recipe Vegetarian Stuffed Grape Leaves

Stuffed Grape Leaves. Recipe after the meme.

Leave it to Lucy of Nourish Me for morphing the ubiquitous 7 Random Facts About Me meme into a flavorful post that I, and perhaps you, can really sink teeth into. Since I’m not at a loss for cookbooks, it gives me the greatest pleasure and relief (I’ve been lured back into the original meme loop twice in the last week) to pull out whichever volumes crookedly clutter the bursting seams of my bookcase:

1. Street Food from Around the World – James Mayson/Absolute Press
Trekking the spice routes East to West, Mayson generously lets us tag along through Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, India & Nepal, Egypt, Morocco and Mexico. Loosely splayed pages, clearly parsed recipes, and informed, yet casual introductions to each region, make me want to renounce the boiled hot dog vendors stationed at every other New York City corner. The Red Sea Prawns, tails on and thickly coated with lime, cilantro, garlic and sea salt, are a succulent and tangy finger food.

2. The Everything Indian Cookbook – Monica Bhide/Adams Media
The ideal hand-holding companion for cooks like me who can’t get enough Indian cuisine yet are still slipping and sliding along the hairpin learning curves of tempered spices and ponderous varieties of pulses. The Gulabi Nimbu Pani (Rose Lemonade), is the most ethereal and refreshing of beverages, and a snap to pull together.

3. French Cooking in Ten Minutes – Edouard de Pomiane/North Point Press
French by birth, Polish by blood, and a medical doctor by training, Pomiane was among the first to tinker with molecular gastronomics without taking himself too seriously. His writing is pragmatic, picaresque and perfect for demystifying the basic elements of French cuisine. Though he is gone some forty years, his presence can still be felt at our tables, where dishes of Alsatian Dumplings, Eggs Sur le Plat, and Sorrel Soup conjure convivial conversations and a leisured style of dining long dismantled and much mourned.

4. James Beard’s Theory and Practice of Good Cooking /Wings Books
The granddaddy of modern American cookery, Beard sets forth clear lessons in all the fundamental food preparation methods. Every recipe is a bonafide winner, whether a simple roasted chicken or Orange Bavarian Cream. No matter what level cook you are, these entries will not fail you. If you don't know how to do it, he will teach you - and how!

5. The Herb Companion Cooks – The Herb Companion/Interweave Press
With recipes spanning the first five years of Herb Companion Magazine, this unsentimental compilation is comprehensive in its inventive uses of the tried and true like rosemary (Bourbon Almonds) to the little known lovage (Loving Mary Cocktail).

6. Pennsylvania Dutch Recipe Book /Culinary Arts Press
This slim classic volume of authentic, stick-to-your-ribs German-American farm fare was a family favorite, especially for the desserts like Shoo-Fly Pie and Anise Drops. It wasn’t until I was on my own that the nostalgia kicked in, but the book had long since disappeared. Wherever was I going to find another one? Why, Ebay, of course.

7. Little Foods of the Mediterranean – Clifford A. Wright/Harvard Common Press
If I had to choose one type of food to commit to for the rest of my life, it would be have to be those delightful mini-meals known as antipasti, tapas, amuse bouche and meze. Wright revels in 500 tiny taste sensations, each more enticing than the next. It’s so impossible to choose that it’s best to just close your eyes and divine your finger to a recipe on a page. What will it be? Burgundian Cheese Puffs, Fried Escarole Calzone or Stuffed Grape Leaves? The decision is made even more difficult by the sidebar snippets of provenance, anecdotes and charming cooking tips.

Thanks to Nora and Pel for tagging me. I'm passing the non-obligatory torch to those I know are big on books:

Lydia of The Perfect Pantry - creator of Bookworm in the Pantry, a weekly post of reader recommendations for non-cookbook food writing. My book lists were featured in May and June. Yours can be, too.

Shaun of Winter Skies, Kitchen Aglow - credited with introducing me to the marvelous authoress, Diana Henry.

Tanna of My Kitchen in Half Cups - Second Helping - A woman with forty-four cookbooks on bread baking alone (!), must have a whole heck of a lot more where they came from.


Stuffed Grape Leaves with Lemon Egg Sauce (known in Greece as Dolmades with Avgolemono) - My own recipe, suggested by Little Foods of the Mediterranean


1 jar grape leaves packed in brine (pre-soaking will greatly reduce sodium level)
2 cups brown rice, cooked and cooled
½ cup chopped dried apricots plumped in boiling water
½ cup chopped, pitted Kalamata olives
1 handful pine nuts
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
¼ teaspoon pepper
½ cup olive oil
Juice of ½ lemon and
½ lemon, cut into thin wedges
4 cups water or light vegetable stock (additional as needed)


Very carefully remove rolled grape leaves from jar and transfer to a large bowl/pot of cold water with the lemon wedges. Gently unroll the leaves under the water and allow them to soak out the excess brine for at least 15 minutes. Floating helps the leaves to separate. In meantime, combine all other ingredients except the olive oil in a large bowl; set aside.
Separate the grape leaves while they are still in the water. Expect some to be damaged; use these to line the bottom of a large skillet. Remove the intact leaves to a working surface, blotting well with paper towels. Starting with the largest leaves, nick off any thick lower stems, then roll each leaf into a bundle around approximately 1 tablespoon of rice filling. (Since the rice is already cooked and will not expand, you should roll tightly.) When you come to the smaller leaves, use less filling proportionally. Arrange the bundles seamed side down in the lined skillet until you run out of intact leaves or filling, fitting the bundles tightly or stacking them if you have to. Drizzle bundles with olive oil then add the water or stock to the skillet so that the liquid level is nearly covering the bundles. Add more liquid if you have to. Cover skillet and simmer on very low heat for approximately 1 hour or until a fork easily pierces the leaves. Check periodically and adjust liquid level as needed; do not allow bundles to dry out. Remove bundles to a platter to cool and cover them with the wet, damaged liner leaves.

Meantime, prepare the avgolemono sauce.

Avgolemono Sauce - (generic recipe)


1 cup hot stock (leftover from skillet w/ additional as needed)
2 large eggs
Juice of 2 lemons, strained
2 teaspoons dried dill
½ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon white pepper


In a large bowl, beat the eggs with the dill, salt and pepper until light and frothy. Beat in the lemon juice, then slowly add hot stock in 1/8 cup increments, beating well after each addition; transfer to sauce pan. Continuously stir sauce with whisk over very low heat until sauce thickens and begins to steam. To prevent curdling, do not allow the sauce to boil. Remove from heat. (If there is any curdling, pour sauce through a strainer and add more dill.) Remove and discard the leaf cover from the bundles; pour sauce evenly over the bundles.

Makes approximately 30. Amount varies based on size of leaves and how many are damaged. If you have any leftover filling, top with feta cheese and place under broiler until bubbling.

This post is being submitted to The Chocolate Lady at In Mol Araan, hosting this week’s edition of Weekend Herb Blogging for Kalyn Denny of Kalyn’s Kitchen, the creator of this food blog event.


Mishmash ! said...

Claps ..claps :) LOVED the post....especially the Dolmades.....I usually wait every year for the Greek fest here to satisfy my palates with dolmades ...which is a non veg version with meat and rice....brined grape leaves are an acquired taste for me....Your Meme is a clear indicator of your book collection :D


Suganya said...

Awww Susan.. I just tagged you!

Lucy said...


Yet more books to peruse! This is a wonderful list Susan. I found the real challenge to be choosing just seven...

Never made Avgolemono, though I can't think why. With a jar of grape leaves in the pantry staring at me every time I open the damn door, these are on the weekend menu. Thanks.

bee said...

what an elaborate step-by-step explanation. wonderful post, susan. we're alike in our love for itsy bitsy tapas-like thingies.

Lydia said...

Susan, thanks for the tag! I'll get there....I promise....

Kalyn said...

Love the interesting things you have in your filling, especially the apricots. I'd love this!

Also, it's amazing that I don't have even one of those cookbooks, since I have so many. All the books you talked about sound great!

Patricia Scarpin said...

Susan, I would have a huge problem making this recipe: I think I'd eat the entire filling even before I started using the grape leaves! :)

It looks so delicious, and that sauce is totally new to me.

Meghan said...

Dolmades are one of my favorite things! I've always been scared to make these as the leaves are so fragile (or is it just my anxiety?)

these look beautiful! I'm inspired!

toni said...

Susan - I'm with Patricia on the filling. It would be GONE before I finished making these! I, too, love little bits and bites, and dolmas are a favorite.

sra said...

Don't think I've had these. The pic of the rice is beautiful. Pine nuts cost a bomb here!

Jyothsna said...

Vine leaves as they call it here is a speciality in Arabic cuisine. I suppose you have to acquire a taste for it, I didn't quite like what I had here. Your step by step recipe makes me reconsider trying this out..! I love that rice filling - how tempting!!

Sandeepa said...

So sorry that I couldn't thank you earlier. I did see your comment on the corriander seeds but had very little internet time, so couldn't come around to thank you.
You know what, I think my seeds are old....maybe I should get a fresh batch and try them.

You are very much into Meditarrenean food these days. Lovely recipe

Cynthia said...

Seems we're all stuffing and baking something :)

Some interesting books there; I've made a note.

What do grape leaves taste like?

Nanditha Prabhu said...

wow , you have a really interesting collection of books....
I have never tasted the grape leaves before!
your rice filling looks delicious!

Susan said...

Thank you, Shn! We have Greek fests here, too, but we always seem to miss them. Brined leaves are an acquired taste, but soaking them prior to rolling does take the edge off the salt.
Suganya – Not to worry. What goes around, comes around – again, and again, and again!
Thanks, Lucy. Perhaps it is time to release the green genies from that jar. They will, however, probably keep for another thousand years, given the salt content. : )
Thanks, Bee. When I step back and look at this, it is rather elaborate, but I’ve made them so often, it is second nature. Three cheers for tapas thingies!
Lydia – No obligation, no rush. We’re all juggling many balls. You are an ideal blogger to tag for cookbooks.
Thanks, Kalyn. There are as many variations for stuffed grape leaves as regions and imagination allow….so many cookbooks, too!
Hi, Patricia. The filling is rather good on its own. Thanks. The sauce doesn’t taste eggy at all, but creamy with a sharp lemon tang. It is very flavorful without the extra fat of a real cream or butter sauce.
Thanks, Meghan. Nothing to be anxious about. While some are damaged from being forced into the jar (and sometimes in removing them), they are quite tough on the teeth if not cooked enough. They roll very easily. Hope you try them. The recipe has a lot of steps, but these are special cautions I’ve added for those who haven’t made them yet.
Hi, Toni. The filling has the best chance if you’ve already eaten and are preparing this for later in day. They are even better next day, after a good chill in the fridge.
Thank you, Sra. Pine nuts aren’t cheap here, either; a small jar for $3USD. Occasionally I will find a “sale,” but I’ve never seen them in bulk economy size.
Hi, Jyothsna. Yes, these are a typical Arabic appetizer, but there are many different recipes. It may be that the brine was not to your liking, or you didn’t care for the particular filling. I personally find too much salt repellent.
Very happy to have helped, Sandeepa. Your odds of success should improve w/ fresh seeds. I have been hanging out in the Mediterranean a while, but now that you mention it, it’s time for me to go traveling again. At some point, I will be posting Indian recipes, too, but my results have not yet been good enough to inspire enough confidence to present to the community. I am undaunted, but do need more practice.
Hi, Cynthia. Hmmm. Very roughly, grape leaves taste salty and snappy, the same general unique flavor as a pickled caper, but can be modified by a good soaking to leach out some of the salt.
Thank you, Nanditha. I do enjoy my cookbooks, but there is an even wider world of recipes in the blogging community. Sometimes I am overwhelmed (yet thrilled) by all the choices. I find bloggers’ recipes generally more reliable than cookbooks and magazines. I try to select my cookbooks carefully.

Shaun said...

Susan, lovie - Your tag has been duly noted, and I will make the Meme my next post. I will, first, have to peruse all of the cookery books I have with me in the US (that alone will help in selecting only 7). I may just end up closing my eyes and pointing to 7 books. Of course your list is inspirational in that it is varied, with both seemingly erudite and approachable texts.

Thank you for the tips on how to carefully unwrap, separate and desalinate the grape leaves, for I have wonderered about this when staring at jars of grape leaves in my favorite Middle-Eastern grocery store in Long Beach.

Nora B. said...

Hi Susan,
Firstly, your stuffed grape leaves looks fantastic. I've never made it myself. Also, thanks for the book reviews. I haven't bought many books since I moved to Sydney (I left my cookbooks in Singapore). So, you list of books helps me decide which ones are "must buys". :-)

Pelicano said...

Love dolmas; haven't made them in several years now, but your post brought back memories. I've never eaten them with avgolemono, just ate them with the braising-liquid of olive oil and lemon juice, but I'm curious.

Glad you found a copy of that Pennsylvania Dutch Cookbook; Ebay is definitely a godsend when trying to locate such things- Barnes and Noble's out-of-print book search too!

Truffle said...

What beautiful photos! This recipe sounds sublime!

ayseyaman said...

Hi Susan,
this is a lovely recipe.
I love very much "Dolma" especially with garlic and yogurt! :)
Your pictures look delicious.

Susan said...

Glad you're taking up the meme, Shaun. I'm sure you'll have all kinds of recommendations that will be as hard to resist as Diana Henry.

Grape leaves can be difficult to extricate from the jar. You will wonder how they got them in there, like a ship in a bottle.
Thank you, Nora. It's hard to leave things behind, especially books; they are so much a part of us.
Hi, Pel. Dolmas are also good w/ yoghurt. I don't make them often enough. They really are a nice light meal for warm weather.

Thanks for the tip on B&N. I haven't looked there yet for other MIA books. I was lucky with ebay. I think the shipping cost more than the actual cookbook.
Thanks, Truffle! Good to see you.
Welcome, Ayseyaman! I'll bet your own recipe is wonderful. Thanks for your kind words and coming to visit.

Susan said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you for posting on stuffed grape leaves. I simply adore them (in restaurants, that is)and have needed some inspiration to give them a go at home. Your vibrant photos and clear instructions are just what I needed.

Susan said...

Thank you, Susan. These were quite tasty, and you can control the oil (and somewhat the salt) when you make them yourself. They are time consuming, but not difficult. I like to stand at the kitchen counter with a glass of wine and some Middle Eastern music in the background to make it a fun ritual.

Johanna said...

thanks Susan - I love browsing other people's shelves and so this meme appeals to me - I don't think i know any of your books but will be looking out for them! And I love your inclusion of dried apricots in the dolmades - anything with dried apricots is my sort of thing!

Valli said...

Dolmades are one of my favourites. When recently asked what my last meal might be..... dolmades were included. Loved the inclusion of apricots with the filling!!

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Don't know how I missed this one Susan except my focus has been maybe off a little lately. Certainly an interesting seven books you've got here.
I'll see what I can do with this one.
I love dolmas and haven't had any since I quit teaching at TWU in the early 80's - I think that needs correcting! Once every couple of weeks one of us instructors would get sandwiches and dolmas from a little Greek deli and picnic in one of the lecture halls - long time ago.

Christina said...

I FINALLY got around to doing the "7 things" meme that you tagged me for months ago. Thanks again for keeping me on my toes and for the great book recommendations here.

Susan said...

Thanks, Johanna. It's not too late for me to officially tag you for this meme. I'll bet you have a nice collection of cookbooks yourself.
Welcome, Valli! I'd choose dolmades over burgers for my last meal any time! Glad you enjoyed the apricot idea. Thanks for your kind words and visit.
Tanna - I hope I've brought back some good memories for you. What's so nice about cooking is that you can fast forward those good times to the present. Only take up the meme if you are so inclined. You were an easy pick, given your vast cookbook collection.
Christina - No duress intended with the meme. Thank you for taking it up at all. Glad you enjoyed the peek in my crammed bookcase.

eatwell said...

cool post. i love stuffed grape leaves and just made them for the first time after finding this recipe from Steve Zallion about his mother's recipe.

Susan said...

Thank you, Eatwell. I'll go have a look at Steve's recipe.

dailydesignspot said...

i have been making dolmas for some times now and these look wonderful... i think that is what is so fun about them.. i simple concept that everyone puts a little spin on with their choice of ingredients.... your taste seems to be similar to mine.. sweet, slaty, savory.. yumyum!

Corinne said...

Yum, found this on Tastespotting...they look delicious. My mouth is watering thinking of the pine nut and brown rice combo in the savory grape leaves... Mmm.