My Favorite Vietnamese Dish is So Easy….

I know I said that I would continue posting recipes from my trip to Italy here, but the other night I made this fantastic dish and couldn’t wait to share…

There used to be a small local chain of 4-5 Vietnamese restaurants in Boston called “Pho Pasteur”.   My favorite dish was bun, a type of cool noodle salad.  Sadly, the restaurants closed many years ago but, as I discovered recently while in Chinatown, one remains!  A trip is imminent…..

With the heat of summer approaching, bun makes a great dinner.  The rice noodles sit underneath a bed of crunchy bean sprouts, cucumbers, and lettuce, and they’re topped with warm seafood, chicken, or beef.  When you drizzle over it a dressing made of soy sauce, sugar, ginger, and garlic, it becomes a wonderfully-flavored dish of different tastes, textures, and temperatures.  I love this dish, not because it showcases some of the flavors of Vietnamese cuisine, but because it’s also very healthy.

As always, use the freshest ingredients.

Fresh, crispy veggies

Although the recipe doesn’t call for it, you can also include fresh mint or basil leaves.

I did not have any fish sauce on hand for the dressing, so I substituted soy sauce and the dish was still amazing.

Vietnamese Bun

(serves 4)

For the dressing:

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup rice vinegar
  • 1 cup Asian fish sauce (nuoc mam)
  • 3-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
In a bowl, combine the sugar and vinegar.  Stir well until the sugar dissolves.  Add the fish sauce, ginger, and garlic.  Set aside.
For the Bun:
  • 8 oz rice vermicelli
  • 4 chicken breast halves, on the bone (you can also use beef or shrimp)
  • 1 tbsp peanut oil
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp sriracha, or other hot sauce
  • 1/2 head red or green leaf lettuce, cored and coarsely chopped
  • 4 carrots, grated
  • 2 cups fresh sprouts
  • 6 pickling cukes, thinly sliced
  • 1 bunch scallions, cut into 1-inch lengths
  • 1/2 cup peanuts, chopped

Turn on the broiler.

Bring a kettle of water to a boil.  In a bowl, combine the noodles with enough boiling water to submerge to cover the noodles.  Set aside for about 15 minutes.  Drain the noodles and transfer to a bowl.  Add 3 tbsps of the dressing and toss well.

Place the chicken, skin side up, in a broiler pan.  In a bowl, combine the oil, soy sauce, and sriracha. Rub the mixture over the chicken skin.  Broil about 10 inches from the element for about 5 minutes, or until the chicken starts to brown.  Reduce the temperature to 400 degrees and continue cooking for 30 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.  Set aside to cool.

Remove the meat from the bone in one large piece.  Cut diagonal slices.

Divide the noodles among 4 bowls.  Add lettuce to each one.  Top with the carrots, sprouts, and cucumbers.  Spoon some of the dressing over the vegetables.

Add the chicken and spoon more dressing on top.  Garnish with the scallions and the peanuts.

The noodles are hidden at the bottom for a nice surprise!

Tiramisu, anyone?

It has been awhile since I posted last here.  A lot has happened in the past month.  For starters, I finally found a new job after being off the market for about a year.  So far, it’s going really well.  One of the best things about it is that my commute is less than 20 minutes each way, all highway, which beats the 45 minute stop-and-go commute I had going in toward the city at the last place.  I have gained an extra hour in my day, which is so great!

Secondly, I spent a week in Italy earlier this month.  It was absolutely beautiful — more than I had expected.  I visited the Amalfi Coast, including the island of Capri as well as Pompeii and Mt. Vesuvius.  During my time in Italy, our group took a cooking class in Sorrento, which was amazing.

The food that we cooked was nothing out of the ordinary, but I think the quality and freshness of the ingredients really lent a lot to the final outcome of our meal.  Also, I received a lot of helpful advice on how to deal with and correct mistakes that may happen when cooking or baking.   I will be posting the various recipes we made here, with all measurements converted.

I’m going to start with the best thing first…forget saving it for last….tiramisu!  It seems that we all loved tiramisu so much that we had it for dessert pretty much every other night (including tiramisu-flavored gelato).  However, the one that we made in the class was hands-down the best of the week — because it was freshly made.

Tiramisu is a very simple Italian trifle-like dessert that takes ladyfingers that have been soaked in coffee, and layers them with a rich custard.  A simple search online will give you not only a basic recipe but millions of variations using different ingredients.  We each made a basic tiramisu in individual dishes, but the recipe below is for approximately 6-8 people.

Tiramisu – before


(serves 6-8)

  • 5 eggs yolks
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons dark rum
  • 2 1/2 cups mascarpone cheese
  • 8 oz whipping cream
  • 14 0z (400 g) package of Savoiardi biscuits (lady fingers)
  • Unsweetened coffee
  • Cocoa powder
  • Chocolate shavings, optional

Whip the cream until soft peaks form.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar until light and fluffy in consistency.  Add the mascarpone and a little bit of the rum.  Gently fold in the two mixtures  along with the whipped cream.

Soak the lady fingers in the coffee — in and out, not too long in the coffee.

Depending on the serving bowl chosen (whether one large or several small), place a layer of  ladyfingers on the bottom.  Pour half of the cream mixture over the ladyfingers and repeat with one more layer, finishing with a layer of cream.

DP Note #1: The bottom layer of lady fingers should be lightly soaked in the coffee, but the second layer should soak for longer.

Dust heavily with cocoa powder.

Refrigerate until ready to serve.

DP Note #2:  You can add good-quality-chocolate flakes to the cream mixture if you’re a chocoholic.


Tiramisu – after!

Savory Spinach, Feta, and Pepper Muffins

Sometimes you come across a recipe that seems so interesting that you just have to try it.  I was browsing through some recipes a few weeks ago and came across this one.  I have never made a savory muffin and these were pretty good – and even better after a day or two in the fridge.

These muffins are great for packing in a lunch, or breakfast on the go, and can be eaten both cold or warm.  Bake them in mini-muffin tins and they’re great for a cocktail party hors d’oeuvre.  The flavor reminded me of a scone or a biscuit, but without the “tanginess” of one.

I think next time I may substitute gorgonzola for the feta and maybe make them with caramelized onions.  Or maybe even smoked salmon (heavenly!) with chives.  The possibilities for ingredients and herb combinations are endless.

The original recipe called for all-purpose flour, but you can use whole wheat in order to make it  slightly more nutritious.  There’s also a little bit of sugar, which, in my opinion, can probably be  halved or even eliminated.

Savory Spinach, Feta, and Roasted Red Pepper Muffins

(makes 12 muffins)

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup vegetable or canola oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup thinly sliced baby spinach leaves, stems removed
  • 3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/2 cup chopped roasted red peppers from a jar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a large bowl, mix together flour, sugar, baking powder, cayenne, and salt.  In a separate bowl, whisk together egg, milk and oil.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix gently until the flour is incorporated.  Fold in the spinach, feta, and red pepper.  Divide the batter among 12 muffin cups and bake for about 20 minutes, or until golden on top and a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool completely before unmolding.

Cauliflower “Couscous” with Market Vegetables

Eric Ripert is a chef who I greatly admire.  He is remarkably talented and I respect the work he has done to promote  sustainable seafood and fishing practices.

A couple of months ago, I picked up his cookbook Avec Eric which, in addition to some really wonderful recipes, talks about the journey of the ingredients from their source to the kitchen.   For each recipe, he explores different cultures and traditions from the West Coast to Europe, and then returns to his kitchen to cook a dish inspired by his travel.  I have filled the book with little Post-It tabs throughout.    He also has a program on PBS by the same name which follows the same format.  The goal is to dine at his restaurant, the three Michelin star Le Bernardin, the next time I’m in NYC, which hopefully will be soon.

He made the recipe below in one of the episodes and I was fascinated by it.  I thought it was such a gorgeous dish that showcased the freshness and brightness of the current season’s vegetables.  How creative to mimic couscous with cauliflower!  While my presentation of the dish is not as sophisticated as his (he used ring molds to layer the ingredients), I think it’s still gorgeous.

I didn’t have all of the ingredients in his original recipe, so I modified it quite a bit. For example, his recipe called for the use of argan and canola oils, whereas I used only extra virgin olive oil.  I also didn’t use nearly as much oil as the recipe indicated.  Additionally, I used balsamic vinegar.

I served this as an accompaniment to some steamed fish.

Cauliflower “Couscous” with Market Vegetables and a Balsamic Mustard Vinaigrette

(adapted from a similar recipe by Eric Ripert, which you can find here)

Serves 4

  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • 2 tbsp dried mint
  • 1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
  • Juice of one lemon
  • About 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, you probably won’t use all of it
  • 1 tbsp whole grain dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper
These are the veggies I used:
  • 2 carrots, peeled and sliced on the bias
  • 1/2 cup baby spinach
  • Asparagus tips
  • Baby bok choy, tough outer leaves removed
  • 1 bunch radishes, quartered
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil.

Separate each of the cauliflower florets and place the florets in a food processor and pulse until the cauliflower resembles couscous. Transfer the cauliflower “couscous” to a sauté pan, add enough water to cover the bottom of the pan and gently cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until cooked through and most of the water has evaporated, about 5 minutes. Strain and place in a mixing bowl to cool.

Prepare the vegetables for blanching. Cook each of the vegetables in the boiling water, drain, and shock in a bowl of ice water. Transfer to a towel-lined plate and set aside.

My blanching times:

Asparagus, carrots, radishes — 5 minutes

Bok choy and spinach — 1 to 2 minutes

Season the cooked cauliflower couscous with the lemon juice, 3 tbsp olive oil, mint and parsley and set aside.

Combine the mustard and vinegar in a small mixing bowl and season to taste with salt and pepper. Drizzle in the olive oil but only enough to balance out the acidity while whisking constantly. Set aside.

Spoon the couscous onto a plate or bowl.  Place the vegetables on top and drizzle with the vinaigrette.

Serve immediately.

Double-Chocolate Roasted Walnut Biscotti

After a few days of summer-like weather with temperatures in the high 70s here in Boston, we’ve finally returned to true March weather.  Today was windy and cold, low 40s.  It was a perfect afternoon for a steaming cup of coffee, tea, or hot chocolate.  However, I was also craving something sweet.  Biscotti seemed like a good idea.

I’ve made these biscotti a few times and they come out very nicely.  The nice thing about these biscotti is that they’re not too sweet, making them perfect for dunking in your morning (or afternoon) coffee.

The term “biscotti” means “twice-baked.”  However, before the second baking, you can dust the individual biscotti with confectioners sugar for a touch of added sweetness if you’d like.

You can also easily modify the recipe to suit your taste.  Almonds or hazelnuts could be substituted for the walnuts, as can pretty much any other nut. They’d also make nice gifts if dipped in dark chocolate.

They are also wonderful as is!

When making the biscotti, the dough should be very stiff, almost dry.  I also highly recommend toasting whatever nuts you use in order to bring out stronger flavors.

Double-Chocolate Roasted Walnut Biscotti
(about 25 cookies)
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Place walnuts on rimmed baking sheet and toast for 8 minutes, or until you can smell them.  Remove from oven and cool.

Lower oven temperature to 350 degrees.  Place parchment paper on baking sheet.

In a bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. In another larger bowl, beat together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and beat until combined well.  Add the vanilla. Stir in flour mixture to form a stiff dough. Stir in toasted walnuts and chocolate chips.

On the baking sheet with floured hands, form the dough into two slightly flattened logs, each 12 inches long and 2 inches wide. Bake for 35 minutes, or until slightly firm to the touch. Cool biscotti on baking sheet for 5 minutes.

On a cutting board, cut the biscotti diagonally into 3/4-inch slices. Arrange the biscotti, cut sides down, on the baking sheet and bake until crisp, about 10-15 minutes. Cool on a rack.

Biscotti keep in airtight containers 1 week and frozen, 1 month.

Homemade Ricotta

If you follow any sort of food blog, you’ll know that just about everyone has written about how easy it is to make fresh ricotta at home.  “How easy?” do you ask?  Well, let’s just say it’s ridiculously easy.  There are four steps:

  • Heat milk
  • Add acid
  • Drain
  • Enjoy

and it will leave you wondering why you would shell out money at the grocery store for this…..

….when all you need are three ingredients that you already have in your kitchen. Some recipes for ricotta call for the use of heavy cream in addition to the whole milk, but I found that just plain whole milk is just fine and results in a nice light fluffy cheese.  Plus, who needs all that additional fat in their diet?

When you’re making this cheese, after separating the curds from the whey, I found that it is much more efficient to spoon the curds into the strainer, rather than to simply pour everything in from the pot.  By spooning it in, you’ll minimize the amount of whey you put in, therefore shortening the total drainage time.  Also, the longer you drain the curds, the thicker your cheese will be.  Here was my final product.  I let it drain for about 30 minutes, and it was a nice consistency, not too thick.

This recipe is very similar to the paneer cheese that I made a while back.  As with that recipe, you can add different herbs and spices into the curds for a nice flavor.

I ended up making Eggplant Rollatini with a nice tomato sauce — not my healthiest meal due to the amount of cheese called for, but I did use less than the original recipe required.  I have included the recipe for this Eggplant Rollatini below after the recipe for the ricotta.

Homemade Ricotta Cheese

(about 2 cups)

  • 6 cups whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar

Set a large strainer over a deep bowl. Line the strainer with two layers of cheesecloth.

Over medium heat, bring the milk and salt to a boil while stirring occasionally.  Turn off the heat and stir in the vinegar.  Allow the mixture to stand for a minute and you will begin to see it separate into curds (thick) and whey (watery).

Pour into the cheesecloth-lined strainer and allow it to drain into the bowl at room temperature for about 20 to 25 minutes.  The longer you let it drain, the thicker the ricotta will be. Transfer the ricotta to a bowl, and discard the cheesecloth and any remaining whey. Use immediately or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. The ricotta will keep in the refrigerator for about 4-5 days.



Eggplant Rollatini

(serves 8)

  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 large eggplants, sliced lengthwise for a total of 16 slices
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups marinara sauce, jarred is fine
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1 egg white
  • 2 cups homemade ricotta
  • 3 tbsp dried oregano, parsley, or basil – or any combination of the three
  • 1 cup part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Divide the oil between two rimmed baking sheets.  Arrange the eggplant slices in a single layer on the baking sheets and turn to coat in the oil; season with half of the salt and pepper.  Bake until the slices are soft and start to brown — probably about 12-15 minutes.  Remove from oven and let them cool.  Reduce oven heat to 400 degrees.
In the bottom of a 9×13 inch baking dish, spread a half cup of the marinara sauce.  In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, ricotta, oregano/parsley/basil, parsley, 2/3 cup of the mozzarella, and  a little more of the salt and pepper.
Place about 3 tablespoons of the ricotta mixture on one end of an eggplant slice, roll it up, and transfer to the prepared baking dish. Repeat with the remaining eggplant slices and ricotta mixture.
Top the eggplant rolls with the remaining marinara sauce and the remaining mozzarella. Sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese.
Bake until the cheese has melted and the sauce is bubbling, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Summer’s Not Here Yet Tabouleh Salad

The weather here in the Northeast the past two days has been almost summer-like (ok, maybe very-late-spring-like).  I wanted to make something light and healthy for lunch other than a standard salad.  Luckily, I had most of the ingredients for tabouleh…or tabouli, or tabboule, or tabbouleh.

Tabouleh is a Middle Eastern salad that is traditionally made with bulgur, tomato, cucumber, and herbs.  Traditionally, it was served as part of a mezze (a selection of small dishes) served in the Mediterranean and Middle East.  There are different variations of it in Turkey and Armenia, and it has become a very popular ethnic food in the US.

Instead of bulgur, I used quinoa, which bumps up the protein a bit, but feel free to use either.  I have made this in the past also with couscous.  The one important thing, however, is to make sure you let the tabouleh sit for a few hours, or overnight, in the fridge so that the flavors can marry together.

I bet the addition of fresh basil leaves would be a nice touch to this salad also.  Perhaps next time.


Probably serves about 6 people

  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cucumber, seeded and chopped
  • 1 tomato, or 20 grape tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped red onion
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 cup fresh parsley leaves, chopped
  • 2 tbsp dried mint leaves
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Juice of one fresh lemon or lime
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Place quinoa and water in a pot and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until all of the water has been absorbed by the quinoa, about 15 minutes.  Remove and let cool completely.

Slice cucumber lengthwise and scoop out seeds with a spoon.  Cut the cucumber and tomato into pieces about the size of a kernel of corn and place into a large bowl.  Chop onion and garlic.  Add to bowl along with the parsley and mint.

Once the quinoa has completely cooled, add to the bowl, along with the olive oil and the juice of the lemon or lime. Stir until all the ingredients are combined.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  You can serve immediately, but it will be better if you cover with plastic and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.

Discovering Sunchokes

The other day, I found myself at a local fruit and vegetable stand where I spent a considerable amount of time looking at all the gorgeous fresh produce and flowers.  I came across a bin filled with something that resembled ginger root:

They were actually sunchokes, also known as Jerusalem artichokes.  I had heard of this root vegetable before, but was unsure how to prepare it.  I decided to buy some.  When I got home, I did a little bit of research.  Interestingly, sunchokes are part of the sunflower family, and are native to North America. Samuel de Champlain, a French explorer very well-known in the Northeast part of the country, found sunchokes on Cape Cod in the early 1600s and thought them to be similar in taste to artichokes.  He brought them back to Europe, where they became popular.  The name “Jerusalem” artichoke is thought to have evolved from “girasole,” the Italian word for sunflower, which is what it was called when cultivation of the plant had spread to Italy.

Sunchokes are often used as a substitute for potatoes by diabetics, due to their low starch content.  A note of caution, however. Don’t eat too many of these at one time, as they contain a carbohydrate that the body has a hard time breaking down, which, in some people could lead to some – ahem – unpleasant results (i.e., gassiness).  Luckily, I didn’t experience this.

I peeled the sunchokes and placed them in a bowl of cold water, as they oxidize and turn brown very quickly.  They resembled a potato, so I decided that my first attempt at making them would be in a soup. They have a very nice, earthy flavor when cooked, and made a soup so creamy (without any cream!) and delicious. There was so much flavor that the soup didn’t really require any additional herbs or spices, IMHO.

I decided I’ll buy more the next time I go to the produce stand and try some different recipes.

Sunchoke Soup with Lightly Caramelized Onions

(serves 2)

  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion sliced
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 lb sunchokes, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 2 cups chicken or veggie broth or homemade stock
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

In a small pan, heat 1-2 tbsp of olive oil and add the sliced onion.  Wilt over medium-low heat, covered, and stirring occasionally. Remove the cover and continue cooking until lightly caramelized, probably about another 10-15 minutes.

In a saucepot, heat another tbsp of olive oil.  Add the garlic and the shallot and cook until softened. Do not burn.  Add the broth, the sunchokes, a dash of salt and some pepper.

Cover and bring to a boil and then turn down the heat and simmer for 45-50 minutes.  Using an immersion or upright blender, purée the soup.  Taste and adjust the seasonings as needed.

Ladle into a bowl and garnish with some of the caramelized onions.  You can also drizzle some extra virgin olive oil over the top for a little something extra.

Food-Related Quotes

I wanted to change the by-line of my blog so I spent some time reading a lot of really good, clever, and thought-provoking quotes about cooking, food, and our relationship to food.  I posted some of my favorites here. The first one is the one I ultimately chose.  Enjoy!

  • Food is our common ground, a universal experience. (James Beard)
  • Food is a central activity of mankind and one of the single most significant trademarks of a culture. (Mark Kurlansky)
  • We should look for someone to eat and drink with before looking for something to eat and drink. (Epicurus)
  • When I add a spoon of honey to my tea, I give thanks to a dozen bees for the work of their whole lives. When my finger sweeps the final drop of sweetness from the jar, I know we’ve enjoyed the nectar from over a million flowers. This is what honey is: the souls of flowers, a food to please the gods. Honeyeaters know that to have a joyful heart one must live life like the bees, sipping the sweet nectar from each moment as it blooms. And Life, like the world of honey, has its enchantments and stings. (Ingrid Goff-Maidoff)
  • Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all. (Harriet van Horne)
  • A recipe has no soul. You, as the cook, must bring soul to the recipe. (Thomas Keller)
  • It’s so beautifully arranged on the plate – you know someone’s fingers have been all over it. (Julia Child)

Dolmathes / Stuffed Grape Leaves

Those of you that know me know that I come from a Greek background.  Since I have been writing this blog, more than one person has indicated on occasion that I don’t have enough Greek recipes.  Generally, my response to them has been that I want to learn and write about recipes and food from many different cultures, and not just focus on one specific type of food.

Dishes that many of us consider to be Greek are actually quite common throughout the Middle East and Turkey.  A lot of Greek cuisine has a heavy emphasis on lamb, eggplant, olive oil and heavy spices, and is actually quite similar to many Middle Eastern dishes.  There are only slight differences in some of these dishes.  A proud Greek might acknowledge the similarities, but will likely insist that these dishes originated in Greece and were then brought to the different regions.  One such dish is “dolmathes” (pronounced “dol-MA-thes”), or stuffed grape leaves.  The name comes from the Turkish word “dolma” which means “to stuff.”

A 1983 article in the New York Times about the history of grape leaves does, in fact, credit the Greeks for this dish.  It also indicates that it was most likely Alexander the Great who brought it to the Middle East when he conquered Thebes: “Food became so scarce that the Thebans cut what meat they had into little bits and rolled it in grape leaves.”  The article goes on to say that “later, it has been suggested the Byzantines refined and spiced the preparation and filled not only grape leaves but leaves of other vines as well…”  This would then justify the different variations of this dish in different cultures.

In Greek and Middle Eastern cuisine, dolmathes can be any of various stuffed vegetable dishes.  Most common, however, is a dish made of grape leaves, stuffed with a lemon-flavored mixture of rice, onion, and frequently, ground lamb.  Although you can exclude the meat and eat them cold as an appetizer with yogurt, Greek-style dolmathes with lamb are served hot as a main course with an avgolemono sauce made of egg and lemon juice.

The recipe I include below, is a variation of this.  I used ground turkey because that’s what I had.  There are so many variations to this recipe, that I suggest using whatever meats, grains (yup, even quinoa), spices, and herbs that you like.  The point is to understand the preparation and cooking technique when making dolmathes.

Dolmathes are very time- and labor-intensive to make, so if you decide to make a large quantity, they can be stored in the refrigerator for several days, or frozen.

Stuffed Grape Leaves with Avgolemono Sauce (Dolmathes Me Avgolemono)

(to be served as a main dish, probably serves about 4)

  • 1/2 jar of large grape leaves in brine
  • 1 lb ground meat of your choice
  • 1/2 cup uncooked rice
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 tbsp dried mint
  • 2 tbsp dried oregano
  • Juice of one fresh lemon
  • Zest of one fresh lemon
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • About 4 cups of chicken broth or water

Optional:  To make the grape leaves easier to work with and to remove some of the briny-ness, bring a large pot of water to a boil and then turn off the heat.  Carefully unroll the leaves (but do not separate) and place in the hot water for 2-3 minutes.  Remove the leaves and place them in a bowl and cover with cold water until they have cooled.  Place the leaves to drain in a colander.

Saute the onions and uncooked rice in 1 tablespoon of olive oil until the onions are softened, but not browned.  In a bowl, combine the onions, rice, ground meat, remaining olive oil, mint, oregano, lemon juice, lemon zest, salt and pepper.  Mix well with your hands.

Gently separate one grape leaf and place it, shiny side down, on a work surface or a large plate.  Place one heaping tablespoon of filling on the leaf at the point where the stem joined the leaf.  Fold up the bottom of the leaf over the filling, then the right and left sides towards the middle, overlapping one side over the other and pulling in a bit to make sure it’s tightly folded in.  Then roll up the leaf.  The roll should be firm, but not too tight, as the filling will expand during cooking.  Repeat until all of the filling has been used.  As you are rolling, set aside any torn leaves that are not suitable for stuffing.  You’ll use them as part of the cooking process in a different way.

Place any torn, unused leaves that you have on the bottom of the pot.  This will prevent the bottom layer of dolmathes from possibly burning.  Place the dolmathes on top, packing them closely together (but not “squished”) with the seam side facing down.  Layer them until they’re all in the pot.  Place more unused leaves on the top and press down gently in order to ensure that the dolmathes don’t unroll during cooking.  Add enough broth or water to the pot to cover about 2/3 or so of the grape leaves.

Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and continue to simmer for approximately one hour.  They’re done once the rice appears to be fully cooked.

If you’re also making avgolemono sauce, add it to the dolmathes about 10 minutes before you anticipate them to be finished cooking.

  • 2 eggs, separated
  • Juice of one lemon
  • Some hot broth/water from the pot

Beat or whisk the egg whites until foamy.  Beat in the yolks, lemon juice and 2-3 ladles of hot broth.  (Adding the hot broth to the eggs will raise the temperature of the sauce so that when you pour it into the pot, the eggs won’t curdle and become scrambled eggs.)   Continue to beat or whisk.  Carefully add the avgolemono sauce to the dolmathes and continue to cook for another ten minutes or so.