Greece, a food culture that I absolutely adore! Growing up in Chicago my family and I have deep Greek roots. I come from a family of restaurateurs and we all love food. My Grandfather, Grandmother, and father at one time or another, owned a fruit cart, the Buffalo Bill Ice Cream parlor, Chez Paul (house of Paul named after my grandfather) an upscale French restaurant, the Flying French Man creperie, and Mason De Lago our fun and delicious Mexican restaurant. Leave it to the Greeks to own a bunch of restaurants, none of them Greek. You will learn more about what it was like growing up around all of this food action in my book, now let's talk Greek food.
A Divine Christmas gift showed up by mail from Chicago. I opened it up and surely I could not believe my eyes! The Parthenon has written a cookbook and my dear loving Godmother has sent me a copy. The book is personally signed by the owner Chris, his daughter Yana, and of course my Godmother. I am so excited that I pick out Christmas eve dinner and Christmas day's dinner from the book. This is the food of my life and I miss it. Here in the Burlington Vermont area, we do not have any true Greek food restaurants for me to be a regular at, yet. Since I was born my family and I have been eating in Greek town. My family is friends with the owners of the Greek Islands and the Parthenon restaurants. When we walked inside it felt like being at home. I am happy to be cooking this lemony, olive oil rich, healthy food of my childhood.
On this cold Vermont eve we are so excited to be making grape leaves. We are following the recipe form the Parthenon cookbook. We started by carefully removing the leaves out of the bottle and soaking them in warm water. Then we removed the steams and set aside. We made our filling and rolled and rolled! The rolls then went into a Le Creuset pot lined with plain leaves and weighed down so that the rolls do not float and unroll in the cooking liquid. After about 1 hour we placed the grape leaves on a platter and topped them with a egg lemon sauce. Opa!
1 jar grape leaves
1 pound ground beef
1 cup white rice
1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
1/4 cup olive oil
To make the filling mix beef, rice, lemon juice, sea salt, and dill together.
Soak grape leaves in warm water for 20 minutes then drain. Pick through the leaves and make a pile of leaves with no holes. Trim the stems and any hard veins from the leaves.
To assemble the dolmades, lay a grape leaf on a work surface, shiny-side down. Put 2 tablespoons of the rice filling near the stem end of the leaf. Fold the stem end over the filling, then fold both sides toward the middle, and roll up into a cigar – it should be snug but not overly tight because the rice will swell once it is fully cooked. Squeeze lightly in the palm of your hand to secure the roll. Repeat with remaining grape leaves and filling.
Line a large Dutch oven or wide deep skillet, with one layer of just leaves. Then place grape leaves seam-side down in a single layer. Form another layering the same way.
Pour water and olive oil, over the dolmades, the liquid should reach halfway up the rolls, add some water if necessary. Cover the pan and simmer over low heat for 1 hour, until the dolmades are tender when pierced with a fork. Serve warm, at room temperature or cool.
Avgolemono (egg-lemon sauce)
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 1/2 cups broth
pinch of sea salt
Separate eggs. Whisk egg whites to soft peaks; mix yolks until pale yellow. Add corn starch to lemon juice and stir; add to egg yolks. Mix yolk mixture and whites together. Skim hot broth off dolmades and add slowly to the egg mixture, whisking well. Egg mixture should thicken. Arrange dolmades in a bowl for serving. Stir sauce well and pour over dolmades.