Opa! Welcome to Greece!
To tell you the truth, I hadn't much explored Greek food before. I've been to some Greek restaurants, and found them pretty good.. but found the food to be a bit too oily and a bit too heavily spiced for a true love-match. So, I was eager to give it another go with some home-made Greek goodies.
Conveniently, I just happened to have a little book from last year's Library Book Sale called "Greek Vegetarian Cookery," by Jack Santa Maria. Almost immediately after I started flipping through GVC, I thought "what took me so long!??" This little gem of a book is one of those books that says things like "cook up some walnuts and add them to your chickpeas." It appears to be out of print, and so I am going to share my recipes from it. I'm sorry if I infringe on anyone's copyrights! Please let me know if I do!
And here is the whole spread in all its glory! It was a delicious meal... and it made great leftovers for lunch the next day too. Bonus! This meal really got me excited about Greek food, and I look forward to many more Greek meals.
First things first, I decided to make dolmas, which I had never done before. There are loads of recipes out there... all offering very different flavor combos and cooking methods. In the end I more or less blended a bunch of different ideas together. Here is my rice & onion & herb mixture, ready to get wrapped up!
I used a few grape leaves that I had blanched and frozen from earlier in the year... but also bought a jar of prepared grape leaves. Here are my "homemade" grape leaves. They look beautiful, and it all felt very garden-to-table, but the dolmas made with these were clearly tougher and less enjoyable to eat than those made with the jarred grape leaves. Oh well! I think the secret is to brine them, and not just blanch them. Maybe next time!
Here are my little dolma babbies, all snugged tight in the pan... ready to steam. This is the first of two layers. Underneath was a layer of grape leaves. Once both layers were all tucked in, seam-side down, then I poured over the juice of one lemon and a little bit of olive oil... and covered them up with a few more grape leaves. Then I put a plate on top, to provide a little weight. Then they were steamed for 1 1/2 hours.
Ready to eat! They turned out pretty well. Some dolma recipes call for cooking the rice first, and others call for the rice to cook during the steaming process. I went with the later technique, but next time I will switch camps. The rice was cooked, after all that steaming, but not thick and chewy the way I like it. Mr. VE&T has a deep love for dolmas and he declared these "pretty good," but that was pretty faint praise... and there are still plenty of leftovers, which would not be the case if they were a home run. I had fun making them, though, so I'll keep shopping around for recipes and try again.
Do you have any favorite dolma recipes or dolma-making tips?? Help me, I'm a noobie!
Chickpea Balls Stuffed with Walnuts and Mint... Yes, Please!
I saw this recipe in my funky little cookbook and knew right away that I needed to make it. First you make little mashed up balls of potatoes and chickpeas and other good stuff. Then you fry up some walnuts and fresh mint. Then you tuck your walnut-mint mix in, seal it up, and bake it. (see recipe below)
The whole time I was making these chickpea balls, Little Stevie Wonder was standing at attention, wagging her tail with great fervor and staring at me with glowing-love-eyes. It was very adorable.
Stuffed 'Banzo Balls!
Unfortunately for Stevie, her vision did not come to pass. These were so crazy freaky yums that we were definitely not handing them out to the doggies. I found these pretty easy to make, and absolutely delicious. I think Mr. VE&T and I both agreed that these were the true winner of the evening. I'll definitely make them again. And you should too:
Stuffed Chickpea Balls (Revithokeftedhes Yemistes)
recipe by Jack Santa Maria, veganized by Amey
1 c cooked chickpeas
1 onion, finely chopped
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp oregano
2 Tbsp chopped parsley (or cilantro)
2 Tbsp soy yogurt
1 tsp olive oil
1/3 c walnuts, chopped up
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp fresh mint, minced
flour for coating
lemon wedges, for serving
Boil the potato until soft. Discard the peels & mash the potato. Add the chickpeas & onion and mash up some more. Add the salt, pepper, oregano, parsley and yogurt. Mix well. Shape the batter into walnut-sized balls. Preheat your oven to 375 F. Now, in a small skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the walnuts, garlic, and mint, and saute for 4-5 minutes, stirring often, until the nuts look lightly toasted. Remove from heat and put into a small bowl. Take each chickpea ball and poke a little well into it. Add in a 1/2 tsp or so of the walnut mixture. Carefully seal the nuts in, and shape into little domed patties. Keep the flour near by to lightly coat your hands and keep everything from getting too sticky. Get out a baking sheet and spray it generously with oil. Arrange your patties and spray a little oil on top too. Bake for 20 minutes. Carefully remove the baking sheet (leave the oven on), and gently flip the patties over with a spatula. Cook another 20-25 minutes until golden on both sides. Serve with lemon wedges & tzatziki sauce.
Here are a few other goodies I made: Tzatziki sauce (yogurt with mint and cucumbers), cucumber spears, Garlic & Walnut sauce (skordhalia) & of course you can't have Greek food without some nice olives!
I loved the Skordhalia so much! It was something new for me... and was crazy good with the cucumber spears. It's a super garlicky dip with walnuts and bread in it... so it's got quite a bit of substance. As a result, it's just perfect with something crisp and light like the cukes.
Garlic-Walnut Sauce, aka Skordhalia
recipe from Jack Santa Maria, modified by Amey
(makes about 3/4 cup)
1-2 slices of bread, no crusts
1 clove garlic, minced or crushed
1/4 c walnuts
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp white vinegar
Soak the bread in the warm water (to cover), for a few minutes, until the bread is very soft. Squeeze out the moisture, so you are left with about 1/3-1/2 cup pulp, and reserve the water. Add in the garlic, walnuts, salt, olive oil & vinegar. Mix it all together. Gradually add in some of the bread-soaking water, 1 Tbsp at a time, until you get your desired consistency.
See you again tomorrow... for a new country, a new cuisine, and something completely different!