I have a childhood friend named Shelli. Her last name ends with a vowel, which we all know what that means...she's Italian.
We're not talking just from her father's side either. Both of her parents are full-blood Italian. Dark hair, the whole bit. Now Shelli and her brother Tom (also a friend of mine), have blonde hair and blue eyes. How did this happen? Not sure, nor do I care, because all I know is that their mother could cook like no other.
Except for Mary Rose DelPietro, of course. On special occasions, Linda Frisella (Tom and Shelli's Mom), also the cousin of John Barr, of the famed K. Hall Designs on Manchester Road, had a recipe for Dolmades that is unmatchable.
If you've ever attempted to make Dolmades then you know how time consuming it truly is, so anytime I'm dining where they are offered, I typically talk someone I know into ordering them. The amount of time isn't terrible, it's just a lot of 'hands on'. It's not like a turkey, where as Ron Popeil would say, "Set it and forget it".
The last time I made this recipe was on Christmas, same time Linda Frisella made it as well. Just as good as I remember...
Bon Appétit (What did you expect, "OPA!"? I am French after all.)
Linda Frisella-Papadopoulos Dolmades (stuffed grape leaves) recipe:
- 1 jar of large grape leaves in brine (about 60-75 leaves) or about 180 small leaves
- 8 cups of water
- 2 pounds of ground lamb
- 1 cup of uncooked short-grain rice
- 2 medium-large onions, finely chopped
- 5 tablespoons of olive oil
- 1 bunch of fresh dill, chopped
- 1 tablespoon of fresh mint, chopped
- juice of 3 lemons
- 1/4 teaspoon of pepper
- 1 teaspoon of sea salt
- 2 cups of water
Rinse the grape leaves in Water.
It is not unusual for many of the outer leaves in the jar or can to be damaged, or to tear while using. Set these aside to use later in the recipe.
Rinse the rice well. Sauté the onions in 1 tablespoon of olive oil until translucent, not browned. In a bowl, combine the onions, ground beef, rice, remaining olive oil, dill, mint, juice of 1 lemon, and pepper. Mix well by hand.
Gently separate one leaf and place it on a work surface. Place a pinch (up to a teaspoon) of the filling on the leaf at the point where the stem joined the leaf. Fold up the bottom of the leaf over the filling, then each side inward in parallel folds, and roll up the leaf. Roll should be firm, not tight, as the filling will expand during cooking. Repeat until all the filling has been used.
The leaves on the bottom can easily burn while the filling cooks, so put a plate or wooden souvlaki skewers in the bottom of the pot. The plate should fit as closely as possible to the sides. If there are unused leaves, or leaves that were torn and not used during the filling process, put them on the plate or on top of the skewers. Place the dolmades on top, packing them closely together (not squashed), seam side down, so they don't unroll during cooking. Layer them until all are in the pot. Place several unused leaves over the top.
Take another plate and place it upside down on top of the dolmades to weight it down. Add 2 cups of water to the pot and cover. Bring the water to a gentle boil, add the remaining lemon juice, reduce heat to low and simmer for approximately 50-70 minutes. Check to see if cooked thoroughly. If the rice has cooked, they are finished. If not, continue cooking for another 10 minutes and check again. Turn off stove and make your avgolemeno sauce (I think this is what made Linda's so delicious.)
- 2-3 eggs, separated
- 1 tablespoon of water
- juice of 2-3 lemons
- broth from the dish being cooked (slightly cooled-not scorching)
Beat the egg whites until foamy. Beat in egg yolks, water, lemon juice, and 2-3 ladlesful of broth. Remember to add the liquid very slowly, beating or whisking continuously, so it mixes smoothly. Add the avgolemono sauce to the dish being cooked. Cook on low for 10 minutes.
Pita Bread Recipe
- 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
- 1 tablespoon of sugar
- 1/2 cup of warm water
- 4 cups of bread flour
- 2 teaspoons of salt
- 1 cup of warm water
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
In one small bowl, dissolve the yeast and sugar in 1/2 cup of warm water and set aside in another bowl, dissolve the salt and the remaining 1 cup of warm water. In a large mixing bowl, add flour and make a well in the center. Add yeast/sugar mixture, then the salt water mixture. Knead with your hands for 10 minutes in the bowl. Add olive oil and continue to knead until all of the oil is absorbed. Shape into a ball in the bowl, cover(I use flour sack towels) and place in a warm spot to rise(until doubled in size) approximately 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
When this time is up, punch down and knead for 5 more minutes. I like to pre-heat my oven a good 30 minutes ahead of time to make these just perfect. Set it to 450 degrees. Something else I've learned is to keep your baking sheet in the oven during this time period. I used to go through baking stones like water, so I stick to plain old fashioned baking sheets, with parchment paper.
Take pieces of dough slightly larger than the size of an egg and roll out on a floured surface 3/8 to 1/4 inch thickness. Carefully (so you don't burn yourself) place them on the hot baking sheet, on the lowest rack in the oven. Bake for 2-3 minutes, flip and bake an additional 2-3 minutes. Place on a cooling rack. Store in a plastic bag
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place block of Feta on foil. Top with Oregano (I use fresh Greek oregano I'm growing in my herb garden), diced tomatoes (sometimes I leave this out), capers, thinly sliced garlic, dash of olive oil, black pepper and red pepper flakes. There's no precise science to the proportions you might use for the herbs, so use your best judgment. Bake 15 minutes. Open carefully and serve with your home made pitas.
These aren't all of my tried and true Greek recipes, but enough to get you started. You'll just have to wait until the next Greek holiday for the next round.
Until next time, Aimee....