This post originally appeared in 2011.
Way back in “the day” (which was a Wednesday, BTW) Husband and I honeymooned in Greece. I won’t regale you with all the OhMyGodWe’reMovingThereNOW details (read this post for more hot Greek action and food porn), but in short – it was the most incredible country with the most amazing food I’ve ever tasted, served in no hurry as a full-on leisure experience.
Every meal was slowly enjoyed, traditionally prepared, and un. freaking. believable. We ate rich, healthy, nourishing food the whole time without even trying – meats, seafood, vegetables, olive oil, fresh cheeses and REAL Greek yogurt.
And the beaches weren’t bad either.
One of the first Greek foods I tried in the ol’ US of A – which remains a favorite – is stuffed grape leaves (Dolmathes, Dolmades, spell it however you want). We never had this dish in Greece – we were too busy trying Sifnos stewed lamb, “Milos cheese” (aka fresh goat’s milk feta given to us by our boat captain in Milos), “Pumpkins Balls,” roasted octopus (wiiith Lemon!)…you get the idea.
But when we’re home and we need a taste of the Mediterranean, there’s no slow-stewed clay pot lamb bones about it. We’re makin’ ourselves some stuffed grape leaves.
Grape leaves are simply grape leaves (imagine that) in a vinegar/salt brine. You can get them at any grocery store with a Mediterranean section. You’ll probably find them in jars. They’re easy to work with – sturdy and wrappable (which is a thing).
Stuffed grape leaves are usually stuffed with lots of rice and perhaps a little ground meat. Meat aficionado that I am, I prefer to amp up the beef and turn down the rice; however, to add a similar texture but keep this recipe grain-free, I pine nuts, briefly chopped with the food processor attachment on my hand blender. (If you want to add some rice, feel free! I just love pine nuts.)
Make LOTS, and drizzle them with extra Kasandrinos Olive Oil. Kalí óreksi!
- 1/4 c. raw or toasted pine nuts
- Lots of grape leaves (a full jar will get you plenty)
- 1-2 Tbs cooking fat (lard, tallow, or Kasandrinos Olive Oil)
- 2-4 Tbs. extra Olive Oil
- 1 medium white onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 lb. ground beef
- 1 Tbs. oregano (or to taste)
- 1 tsp. thyme (or to taste)
- 1/2 tsp. mint (or to taste)
- Lemon wedges for squeezin’
- Pulse the pine nuts in a food processor to break them apart. (If you toast them, do that first.) Set aside.
- Begin cooking the chopped onion in your cooking fat over medium/medium-low heat. Cook until soft.
- Once onions are soft, add chopped garlic and cook until fragrant (about 30 seconds)
- Add ground beef and cook until no pink remains.
- Add spices and pine nuts and cook a few minutes more.
- Lay out grape leaves and place a spoonful of the ground beef mixture on top of each.
- Now, simply roll the grape leaf tightly around the mixture. Picture how they do it with the burritos at Chipotle. (Not that I’ve ever eaten the tortilla at Chipotle. Er, yeah.)
- Squeeze bit of [i]lllllemon[/i] over the stuffed grape leaves.
- Serve with an extra, generous drizzle of Olive Oil. Or some Windex. NO DON’T DO THAT LAST PART.