Friday, October 15, 2010

Stuffed Grape Leaves... Euprika?

Our October 2010 hostess, Lori of Lori’s Lipsmacking Goodness, has challenged The Daring Cooks to stuff grape leaves. Lori chose a recipe from Aromas of Aleppo and a recipe from The New Book of Middle Eastern Food.

I was so excited for this month's Daring Kitchen challenge!  When I was a kid, I remember my Stepmom used to spend hours making, rolling and cooking our family's version of stuffed grape leaves.  My Grandfather called it "Euprika" (and I have no idea how to spell it... this is only a guess).  I would get sooooo excited when I found out that we were having euprika for dinner!!  And as you can probably imagine, getting a teenager to eat grape leaves is no easy feat - nevermind getting a teenager to LOVE it.  She would make what seemed like millions of these delicious parcels of goodness and freeze them in batches for dinners later in the year.  After finally making them myself (which took me 2 days, mind you), I appreciate all her hard work so so so much more.  I also now realize why we only got this "treat" a few times a year :)

Now, because I can never leave good enough alone, I of course changed up some of the ingredients.  Overall, I thought it was an improvement and each bite had a nice hint of nostalgia.

grape leaves
1/2 lb ground lamb (thank god for Sulmona Meat Mkt!!)
1 1/2 C brown rice, cooked
1 small onion, finely diced
1/4 C chopped tomatoes (I used some CSA tomatoes I oven-dried & packed in EVOO)
2 tbsps chopped kalamata olives
2 tbsps toasted pine nuts
1 tbsps chopped herbs (I used mint & basil from my garden, parsley would be good too)
3 oz crumbled feta
1 large jar of tomato juice (I used low-sodium)

Step 1) In a large bowl, mix together all of the ingredients (except the grape leaves and tomato juice).  Use your hands to really knead the filling so that it becomes a nice homogeneous mixture.

Step 2) Open a grape leaf with the veins facing up.  Place an oval-shaped mound of filling near the stem-side of the leaf, like so:

Step 3) Roll the bottom (stem side) up over the filling, tuck the 2 lateral sides over, and continue rolling to the top of the leaf... burrito-style.

Step 4) Continue this until you are out of filling and have consumed about 2 glasses of wine.

Step 5) For me, this was Day #2... it was already 9pm by the time I got done rolling all the leaves on Day #1 so I just packed them in a storage container and stuck them in the fridge.  

Tightly place all of the rolls into the bottom of a pot, then cover them with the tomato juice.  Place a plate over them inside the pot so that they don't unravel and/or float around in the juice.

I know this is a terrible picture... just wanted to give you and idea what it looks like

Step 6) Let them simmer over low heat for approximately 3 hours.

I served these with a salad, pita, and some homemade hummus.  They would probably be pretty good over orzo as well.  So good, even Boyfriend liked them, and he was pretty hesitant when I brought up the whole "we're having grape leaves for dinner" conversation.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Clam Chowder, The Black Pearl Style

Last summer Boyfriend and I went to a wedding in Newport, Rhode Island.  I hadn't ever been there before and let me tell you... it was AMAZING.  The mansions.  The ocean.  The Black Pearl's World Famous Clam Chowder.

Now, there was a lot of hype leading up to this bowl of chowder.  A. LOT.  I was prepared to be disappointed actually.  Don't get me wrong, I love clam chowder.  Every time people come to visit I make sure they get 2 things - clam chowder and a lobster roll.  Its New England for god's sake!

However, I have to admit....

It was shut-your-mouth-smack-your-mama-I-refuse-to-share GOOD.  I had not, and since have not, had chowder this good ever.  It's not super-thick they way I normally see it here and it had lots of dill and a hint of booze... maybe sherry?  I wish I could have brought some home with me.  I should have.  Although... I'm not 100% convinced it would have made the 2 hour trip back safely.  I mean, hell, we still had a wedding to go to and there was no way that chowder would have survived our state of debauchery.  4am drunk and hungry?  No. Way.

I've never actually made clam chowder before so I figure hey, why not tackle the most amazing, unreproducible chowder ever?  Why not?


1/4 stick of butter
4 slices of bacon, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
4 medium potatoes, peeled and diced into smallish cubes
2 cans of minced clams, with juice
2 cup light cream
2 cups milk (I used 1%)
2 shot glasses dry vermouth
2 tsp dried parsley
1 tbsp cracked black pepper
2 tbsps dried dill weed, or more to taste

Cook the bacon until nice and crispy.  Add the butter and chopped onions to the bacon/grease and saute until the onion is starting to soften. Add the parsley, dill, clam juice, and potatoes, and just enough water to cover all ingredients. Simmer 15-20 minutes until potatoes are cooked but not mushy.  Add the cream, milk and vermouth. Heat just a little more so the cream does not cool it. Add the minced clams when you're almost ready to serve it to make sure they don't get too tough.  Taste.  Season. Taste again.  *Note: if you like your chowder a little thicker you can either make a roux using flour and butter or mix a little cornstarch with water and add that to your chowder before adding the clams and let it thicken your chowder.

I had this for lunch the next day and I have to say, it re-heated very very well.  Boyfriend liked it but said he would have added more dill and less potatoes.  Also that there wasn't any bacon in the original Black Pearl chowder.  Whatever.  I thought it was f-ing delicious and my favorite chowder recipe so far.  I might toy with it in the future... add fresh clams instead of canned, etc etc.... but I think this is the only style of chowder I plan to make for a long, long time.
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