Category Archives: Sides

Make it Mofongo

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In Puerto Rico if pork is king, and by the way it is, then the prince would have to be the exquisite plantain…in all its forms.  Plantains can be boiled, baked or fried.  They can be mashed, shredded or creamed.  Green or ripe, the starchy member of the banana family is a favorite through out the Latin Caribbean and is used in a myriad of dishes including stuffed into many a Puerto Rican Thanksgiving turkey! Although its roots hail from Africa, the plantain immigrated and laid down permanent roots in Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Jamaica, Colombia, Peru through to the Amazon region.  To say plantains are wildly popular in these places is an understatement.  Mofongo is made from fried green plantains which are then mashed in a mortar and pestle with fresh garlic, salt and olive oil.  It can be served alone or with crispy pork cracklins mashed in.  Often a well is fashioned in the middle of the mofongo mass and spicy shrimp or lobster or savory chicken or pork chunks  are stuffed in.  A small bowl of homemade chicken broth is served on the side to wet the dish.  It’s crazy good!  We NEVER had mofongo at my grandparent’s house in Puerto Rico.  Every once in a blue moon my grandmother would prepare tostones for us, which are like flat, round plantain fries; crunchy and salty on the outside,  earthy and almost creamy in the middle.  But mofongo?  Uh uh.  Not in our house.  Even so, when I lived in Puerto Rico as a young girl  in her 20’s, I discovered the glory and wonder of the mashed plantain at the beach with friends.  Mofongo is made all over the island but is especially good at the beach.

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A good number of beaches boast kiosks which sell all manner of local island fare and are known for their mouth-watering dishes, mofongo being one of them.  I remember my first bowl was stuffed with local crab.  One bite and I was head over heels in love.  You’ll often here laughter when crabs are discussed on the island.  Local crabs are sometimes fed by hand and almost raised as family pets.  The incredible sweetness of the meat will convince you as to the love of local seafood.  Often at these kiosks when seafood is ordered, the person who is preparing your meal in front of you will mention in passing, “You’ll love these little fried fish!  They come from the waters a couple of miles down the road.  You can’t get them anywhere else on the island.”  Rum and rum drinks are sold with a smile to anyone old enough to order.   The beat of salsa and reggaeton spills down the beach.  Gorgeous girls stroll up and down the beach and, as in so many post-colonial territories, they walk hand-in-hand or arm-in-arm, as sisters would.  The water is almost always clear as an aquamarine… you’ll want to stay all day… with two fingers of local rum and a bowl of mofongo.  Buen Provecho!

Mofongo

  • Servings: 5-6 cups
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 7-8 green plantains
  • 1-2 large garlic cloves
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 5-6 tablespoons olive oil to taste
  • vegetable oil for frying

 

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When you go to the store make certain you purchase plantains and not green sweet bananas.  You cannot peel and eat green plantains raw.  Notice in the photo above plantains have three or four, sometimes five ridges or sides running up and down the plantains.  A small paring knife is all you need to score each ridge from top to bottom to make peeling easy.  Use your finger or the paring knife to ease under the peel, separating the skin from the plantain.  Work from section to section.  Cut the plantains in 1″-1 1/2″  pieces and drop into a bowl with water that has been salted, 2-3 tablespoons of salt will do.  After 15 minutes, drain, dry and set aside.

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While the vegetable oil is heating up in your frying pan, crush the garlic and salt together in a mortar and pestle to make a smooth paste.  Set aside.

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Pour vegetable in a large frying pan over medium heat.  When hot carefully place as many plantain pieces in pan as will fit, cut sides up and down and fry for 7 minutes.  You don’t want to brown them just cook them so adjust the temperature accordingly.  After the first 7 minutes turn the plantains over and fry for another 7 minutes.  Drain on paper towels and fry the remaining pieces the same way; 7 minutes on each side.  While the last plantains are frying take 3-4 of the cooked, drained pieces and drop into the garlic-salt mixture in the mortar.  Using the pestle, crush the cooked plantains to make a fairly smooth mash.  Add 1-2 tablespoons of good olive oil and salt to taste to each batch of mashed plantains.  Leave the mash in the mortar as you add more and more chunks of plantains.  Work quickly while the fried plantains are warm so they absorb the flavors of the salt, garlic and olive oil.  Continue until all plantain pieces have been fried and mashed.  Serve immediately or as soon as you can.

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Rosti, the perfect late night potato cake…with scallions and bacon

Snowy bank of fluffy potatoes just waiting for butter.
Snowy bank of fluffy potatoes just waiting for butter.

After a night of clubbing, dancing and partying, nothing is more welcome than a plate of straightforward carbs. Throw some high quality fat in the mix and we’ll be good to go.  Rosti, or Swiss potato cake is it.  I used to keep a large boiled potato in the refrigerator and prepare it all the time.  It seem like hundreds of years ago when I lived in Atlanta, that I would eventually make my way home at the end of some crazy night… well, you get the picture.  I got in late, okay?  I had a few different apartments during that time, each one lovely and charming with its own mind bending fusion of quirky, funky and downright bizarre neighbors.  One place was on Frederica Street, affectionately called “Fred” by my cronies and me, perched at the top of a hill.  This is back when Atlanta still had character, color and stories were being made.  It was some kinda fast livin’.  Anyway, across the street from my apartment lived the scariest looking guy you ever did see in what little kids would have called a haunted house if a child had ever walked down the street and seen the house.  Falling apart from top to bottom, it looked as though it should have been condemned.  Old tires, cement blocks and general crap was thrown anywhere and everywhere.  A few of the windows had been covered with tin foil.  It was dark and menacing, the cheap curtains hung on the remaining windows were always drawn and the flickering blue of a television set was the only light at night casting eerie shadows on his already freaky looking property.  Creepy.  Every now and again my neighbor friends, Lee and Desiree, and I would see a big, hefty man emerge, always wearing a black wife beater, dirty jeans stained with oil and black boots that had seen their better days.  Even in the dead of winter this was his uniform.  He sported an enormous handlebar mustache that spanned from ear to ear and wore his long, greasy hair slicked back, his gold hoop earring gleaming wickedly.  And he was ancient.  Had to have been at least 50!  Well, as it happened, my neighbors and I had spent the good part of an afternoon well into cocktails when we spied this ol’ monster of a man poking around in his front yard.  Filled with 101-proof liquid courage the three of us excitedly decided to cross the street, introduce ourselves and, maybe, make a new friend.  We took the jug o’ brown with us.  Over we went and when he saw us approaching he scowled, his face filled with distrust and irritation.  By then it was too late to turn back, so with plastered smiles on our faces we stuck out our hands, made our introductions and let the jug be seen.  Honey, when that man caught sight of that bottle his face lit up like a damn Christmas tree.  “Felix.”, he said sweetly, “Felix Kowalski.” I happily replied, “Well, Fee, it’s a pleasure to finally meet you!”  From that day forward he was known to us as “Fee” and although he never crossed the street and visited us, not once, we came and went, in and out of his house just as happy as you please.  He had become our friend.  I always made way too much food and regularly took him plates that he seemed to just suck down.  Although Fee was from New York’s Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood, I remember…Mott Street, that giant was a softie.  The man had adopted every cat in the area, fed them and welcomed them into his home.  On authority but off the record from others in the hood, he would sell anyone in need a joint…for $1.00.  But listen to this.  And this is what I loved about him.  Big, burly Fee was fully and unreservedly addicted to the “Smurfs” cartoon show.  The Smurfs!  Remember those little blue characters?  Yeah, well, he was like a little boy when that program came on.  He was up at all hours watching that show.  So when I came home from a night of partying, I’d start this dish and while the potatoes were browning in the pan I’d take a hot shower and, time I got out, flip them to brown on the other side.  Regardless of the time, Fee always answered his door with a smile on his face, eager to dig into some warm, homemade food.  This was one of his favorites.  Mine, too.

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Rosti is really like a round hash brown cake and can be prepared with solely potatoes or with a few herbs and  meat.  The dish is served all over Switzerland and, as you can well imagine, every recipe is different.  Some grate their potatoes raw, others boil their potatoes, jackets on, then grate them. I lean towards the latter method, it’s always worked for me.  By boiling the whole potatoes you’re more likely to end up with a golden, crispy crust and a creamy, buttery inside, which is exactly what you want.  If you’re hesitant to try this, half the recipe and start with a small, non-stick skillet, way easier to flip.  It’s a great winter side for chicken and meats or even as an entrée with a salad.

 

Rosti, Potato Cake

  • 3 pounds russet potatoes, boiled in their skins and completely cooled.  That’s about 3 large potatoes
  • 10 slices smoked, thick cut bacon, chopped
  • 5 scallions, chopped, dark green tops reserved
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 5 tablespoons butter, divided, 3 and 2
  • salt and pepper
  1. Remove skins from potatoes and, using a box grater, grate potatoes on the largest holes and into a large bowl.  Set aside.
  2. Cook bacon then remove with a slotted spoon from pan to a paper towel to drain.  Reserve bacon grease in skillet.
  3. Add the cooked bacon, the white chopped scallions and a bit of salt and pepper to the potatoes and very gently toss trying not to break up the potato shreds.
  4. To the pan with the bacon grease add the olive oil and 3 tablespoons of butter over medium heat.
  5. When butter foams up add the potato mixture, pressing down with the back of the spoon to smooth and shape the rosti.
  6. Drop the temperature to low and allow to slowly brown for at least 20 minutes.  Shake the pan occasionally to loosen the cake.  Run a rubber spatula around the rim of the pan to shape the rosti.
  7. Invert potato cake to a plate or baking sheet.
  8. Raise the heat to medium and add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter to the pan.
  9. When the butter foams, slide the potato cake back into the pan and cook another 10-15 minutes.
  10. Transfer to serving platter, scatter remaining scallions over the rosti and serve in wedges.

Cilantro Rice will Save the Dinner

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Why is it every time we finish preparing dinner, eating dinner then cleaning up from dinner, it seems we have to start all over again; from deciding what to have, to making a list, assembling the meal, it seems as though the cycle just doesn’t end.  Lord knows, it’s exhausting.  To add to our woes, our families become bored and disinterested when the same meal is prepared over and over.  I know I could eat salad EVERY SINGLE NIGHT but, for some reason, my husband and son revolt on day number 2.  Precious little time and money also contribute to the problem.  As luck would have it, I ran across an article in the New York Times cooking section that brought to mind something I keep on hand, in the freezer, that I had completely forgotten about.  I puree large quantities of cilantro, fresh baby spinach, a little onion and garlic and a bit of lime zest together in the food processor and, after freezing the mixture in ice-cube trays, I transfer the frozen cubes to a plastic freezer bag for soups, stews and anything else that might need a blast of color or flavor.  I had forgotten about them because my freezer is an ice-covered disaster.  I label everything but the freezer’s small and packed…and…whatever.  I can’t go into it.  I’ll get all angry and mean.  Just believe me when I say these cilantro cubes are just the ticket to wake up a dreary, tiresome dinner.  I add five or six of these babies to a pot of rice cooking and my dinner has completely changed.  My leftover chicken thighs stand up a bit taller next to cilantro rice and sliced tomatoes.  Leftover steak and grilled shrimp or fish love cozying up to the bright and cheerful side dish.  I prepare the cilantro puree in batches, mix it all together in a large bowl then divvy it up into the ice-cube trays.  After the cubes have frozen solid I’ll put them in a labeled freezer bag, squeeze out the air and flatten the bag for easy storage in the freezer.  I add a bit less water to the pot if I’m preparing rice, maybe one or two tablespoons less per cube.  Towards the end of the rice’s cooking time I check to see if more water is needed and if the color is to my liking.  If the rice has a little too much water I’ll remove the lid of the pot and allow that excess to steam off.  I might add another cube or two or only water if that’s what’s needed.  But I find cilantro rice is a welcome change from plain white or brown, jasmine or basmati.  The spinach gives almost no flavor but deepens the rich emerald color.  The onion, garlic and lime zest takes this condiment to another savory level.  They take away the raw harshness that a strong cilantro taste can sometimes bring.  I add no salt as I can season the dish itself later.  So tuck this recipe under your bonnet and the next time you find yourself wanting to rattle around in the kitchen consider preparing this.  Keep the cubes on hand and you’ll buy yourself shortcut and a culinary hack.  Your sweet family will love you for it!

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Cilantro Cubes

  • Servings: 2 ice cube trays or 28
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 4 large bunches fresh cilantro, washed, dried and leaves roughly chopped
  • 1 8-ounce bag baby spinach leaves
  • 2 bunches flat leaf parsley, washed, dried and leaves roughly chopped
  • 1 medium onion, roughly chopped
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • zest of two limes

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  1. Working in batches, combine all ingredients in your food processor pulsing until mixture has pureed.
  2.  Transfer mixture to ice cube trays or storage containers and freeze until ready to use.

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Puerto Rican Guava Hand Pies

IMG_7492 Pastelillos are almost bar food. They’re good at family get togethers, poolside and right now while we’re watching the World Cup. They’re all kinds of stuffings sweet and savory for these little pies. They can be made cocktail size or larger to stand in as breakfast or lunch on the fly. Just about all cultures have these. My niece, Elizabeth, just left a day or two ago for Delhi working on a 6 month project. She’ll find some spectacular hand pies there such as spicy curried potato pies, curried lamb and curried lentil. I made for this lazy, Sunday afternoon guava and cheese hand pies. They’re deep-fried, easy and delicious. Here’s the hook. The dough is already made, rolled out and cut into perfect rounds. All you have to do is stuff them and drop them into a waiting pan of hot oil. The guava paste can be purchased at the grocery store. It’s a gorgeous, deep garnet color, sticky and firm. It will melt in the pie while frying. Cream cheese is great in the pie as well as “queso fresco”, a crumbly, salty white cheese. It’s a savory-sweet match made in heaven. One day soon I will post a recipe for the meat filling, picadillo. Truly. I promise. Meantime, I’m dropping these bad boys in hot fat and rooting for Greece. Pame Ellada!   Well, as we all know now Greece did not make it.  These hand pies are perfect to drown your sorrows.  That and a tall, stiff drink.  They’re perfect for an impromptu get together because they’re easy and totally unexpected.  The sweet-salty mix goes well with all manner of drinks and people think guava’s so exotic.  And quite frankly, it is!  Back to the dough.  The pastelillo rounds are in the Hispanic frozen food section of your grocery store.  They come 10 to a package and should be defrosted in the refrigerator otherwise they can get a little soggy.  Goya makes them as well as some other companies.  Try to find guava paste in the tin; I find it to have the most flavor.  The outside of the fried pastelillos will look blistered and puffed up when finished.  Oh!  And let them cool a bit after draining on paper towels.  The hot guava paste is like molten lava in your mouth!  Buen provecho!

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GUAVA AND CHEESE HAND PIES

yield:  20 large or 40 cocktail size

  • 2 packages pastelillo dough rounds, each package containing 10, for cocktail size cut each round in half
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, minced into small cubes
  • 8 ounces guava paste
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • vegetable oil for frying
  1. Place one dough round on your work surface, dip your finger or a pastry brush into the egg and lightly paint the egg wash on the edge of just one half of the dough.
  2. Onto one half of the dough round place a tablespoon of both guava paste and cream cheese or cheese of your choice.  For cocktail size use half the amount cheese and guava.
  3. Fold the pastelillo in half.  Using a fork press the edges together to form a tight seal.  If there are any holes in the dough makes sure they are pinched closed because if the paste or cheese leaks out into your pan you’re going to have a great, big mess.
  4. Repeat with all the rounds until finished and set aside.
  5. In a large frying pan heat about 2-3 inches of oil to 350° or medium high.  Add the stuffed pastelillos being careful not to crowd the pan.  Fry on each side 2-3 minutes or until each side is golden.
  6. Remove from the pan and drain on paper towels.
  7. Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar to make them look pretty.

Fried Plantain Chips, Beach Food Puerto Rican Style

Doesn’t it seem as though the prettiest or most fun beaches always have the most delicious food close by? Beach food. Pick-up food. And it’s almost always hideously bad for you. But something about being in the hot sun, maybe under a thatched shack…a fruity rum drink or a cold beer in your hand makes it natural to throw caution to the wind and start ordering. Some sort of scalding hot, deep-fried, savory bit blanketed in a crispy, salty outside which will transport you to paradise with every single bite. Puerto Rico is no exception. The beaches are exquisite, some known for surfing others for sunning but all tempt with the king of naughty…hot fat. All manner of delectable morsels are fried to a golden perfection on those beaches; some amiably co-mingling with garlic or onion and cornmeal while some are happy to be fried naked with no breading what so ever. One of our favorite treats are fried, green plantains, Tostones. Crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside these yellow speckled rounds are perfect with an icy beer or cold rum drink. They’re served in wax paper triangles, sometimes with a garlic and olive oil sauce drizzled lightly. Perfect for a hot, lazy day in the sun!  Every now and again my grandmother would make them for us.  Not often enough so tostones were a real treat.  And reason enough for a big, family get together.  Plantains must be cooked; they cannot be eaten raw.  They look like bananas but they’re not.  Bananas are high in sugar whereas plantains are high in starch.  There are hundreds of recipes for plantains but, typically, three stages of ripeness will determine how they are prepared.  For good tostones you want hard, deep green plantains.  As they ripen plantains will begin to turn yellow and that is perfect for frying and serving as a side.  As they darken and ripen they turn black.  Don’t throw them out!  At that stage the plantains are at their sweetest and are wonderful as dessert baked in butter, sugar and rum served hot over melting vanilla ice cream.  The plantain is truly your friend.

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Fried Plantains or Tostones

  • Servings: 8-10
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 4 large, dark green plantains
  • vegetable for frying
  • small bowl of water with 2-3 mashed up garlic cloves, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • sea salt for sprinkling
  1. Cut about 1″ off each end of the plantain.  Cut the plantain from end to end cutting only through the skin.
  2. Work your finger under the skin and pull the skin away from the plantain working from top to bottom.  The plantain will stain your fingers.  I’ve heard it said of a Puerto Rican newly arrived to the States, “She still has the stain of plantains” meaning she’s country or a hillbilly…”una jibara”.
  3. In a deep-frying pan heat 2″ of vegetable oil to 350° of medium high.  Cut the plantain into 1″ pieces or, if you want larger tostones, cut into 2″ pieces.
  4. Add them to the hot oil and fry until they are just starting to turn golden, about 5-6 minutes.
  5. Remove from the pan and drain on paper towels.  Leave the oil as you’ll be using it again.
  6. Place one piece of plantain on your counter and using a small plate, bowl or small pan press down firmly on the piece of plantain.  Continue with all.
  7. Bring your frying pan back up to medium high.
  8. Lightly dip each tostone into the salted garlic water and quickly but carefully return the smashed tostones to the hot frying pan.  Don’t leave the tostones long in the water or they’ll fall apart.  Just a quick dip is all they need.
  9. Fry the tostones again until they turn a rich, golden brown, remove from the oil and drain on paper towels.
  10. Immediately sprinkle with sea salt and serve.

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Fried and Green, Tomatoes that is

IMG_7420 The person who thought to slice up a rock hard green tomato, dust it with a seasoned coat of cornmeal and deep fry it in fat is nothing short of genius.  You don’t often see green tomatoes at the grocery store.  You have to go to a specialty or outdoor market.  But they’re out there.  And I found some a few weekends ago on a typical Saturday morning on one of my outings with Dad.  A beautiful pale jade color, these tomatoes sang out to me.  They were big.  And plentiful.  I must have grabbed at least eight or nine.  They were perfect!  Not even the faintest blush of pink on this fruit and all were solid as boulders.  Yes, I had some fryin’ on my mind.  With James home it’s easier to justify food that’s not, well…all that good for you.  Poor Jimmy.  When James was at school it was fish and salad just about every night.  But with James home?  Mama gets to rattlin’ around in the kitchen and all MANNER of dishes come out!  That last post I wrote on homemade  dulce de leche was transformed into a tall, gorgeous Banoffee pie that was completely eaten before I could take the first photograph of it.  Gone.  Just like that.  The only reason I had a photo of the Key Lime Pie from an earlier post is because I hid a huge slice in the refrigerator.  Girl’s gotta do… anyway, treasure trove in hand I had plans for these ‘maters.  For those of you who’ve never had a fried, green tomato you’re in for an addictive treat.  FGT’s are salty and crunchy on the outside, tart and barely firm on the inside.  I peel the skin off the bottom of the tomato so the cornmeal will adhere to the flesh.  Too much skin and the cornmeal floats off into the oil.  The tomatoes have to be completely green as even a half-ripe tomato will dissolve into a watery, sputtering mess in your frying pan.  You really want to serve these warm so if you’re planning on these being part of your meal make sure the rest of your dishes are pretty much finished.  Also, as with anything fried, you want your flour, egg and cornmeal all well seasoned.  I served this batch of Fried Green Tomatoes with a buttermilk dipping sauce that can easily be changed up to the flavor of your choice.  So feel free to add a couple of tablespoons of Sriracha, (SO good!), two tablespoons of plain, bottled BBQ sauce or a packet of Ranch dressing.  I’ve not tried the Ranch, I’m just not a Ranch-style girl, but I’ve been told it’s pretty good.  Go ahead and experiment.  And let me know how yours come out! IMG_7436

Fried Green Tomatoes

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • enough oil to go half way up your frying pan
  • 8-9 green tomatoes, cut in half inch slices and seasoned on both sides with salt and pepper
  • 3 tablespoons garlic powder, divided
  • 3 tablespoons seasonings, I use Tony Chacere’s, divided
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 eggs, well beaten
  • 2 cups cornmeal, preferably white, and more on reserve

Buttermilk Dipping Sauce

  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons Sriracha, BBQ sauce or Ranch dressing, all are optional
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 1 bunch of chives, chopped

Fried Green Tomatoes

  1. Place flour, eggs and cornmeal in a line in SEPARATE, shallow bowls on your counter.
  2. Season the flour with one tablespoon of garlic powder and one tablespoon your fave seasoning mix or Tony Chacere’s  and mix until well combined.
  3. Season the eggs and the cornmeal each the same way making sure the eggs and seasonings are well combined as is the cornmeal and seasonings.
  4. Dredge each tomato slice in the flour, then in the eggs and then through the cornmeal.  I use my left hand to dredge through the flour, right hand for the eggs and back to left for the cornmeal.  This avoids “fat hand” syndrome.
  5. Lay each slice over cooling racks, the ones you use for cookies or muffins, to air dry until you finish the dredging process.  This keeps the bottom from becoming soggy.
  6.  Heat oil to medium high, about 350°.
  7. Gently slip tomatoes into the oil being careful not to burn yourself or crowd the pan.
  8. After 2-3 minutes turn each slice over for even cooking.
  9. When light golden brown remove from pan with a slotted spoon or spider and drain on paper towels.
  10. Serve with Buttermilk Dipping Sauce.

Buttermilk Dipping Sauce

  1. In a medium bowl combine buttermilk and mayonnaise and whisk until smooth.
  2. Add remaining ingredients, mix well, cover and chill until ready to serve.

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Dolmades, Greek Stuffed Grape Leaves…Food of the Gods

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Spring lasted all of 15 minutes here in SoFlo and as I prepared dolmades, or Greek stuffed grape leaves, it occurred to me what a perfect summer food it is.  As the temperatures steadily climb dolmadakia are the ideal snack or side; not too heavy and chilled, tailor-made for the steamy days ahead.  They can be enjoyed warm but we prefer them cool or even cold.  It’s best to make the dolmades the day before serving thus giving them plenty of time overnight in the refrigerator.  Stuffed grape leaves are incredibly simple to make; don’t listen those pessimists who make such a big fuss and complain about how back-breaking they are.  They DO, however, take time.  A considerable amount of time at that.  3/4 of the time spent making them is in the stuffing or rolling.  I find if you set up an assembly line at your dining room table where you can sit the time flies by and you’re not on your feet inviting a back ache.  The most difficult part of making the stuffed grape leaves is deciding meat or no meat.  In our house we have a saying, “ANYONE can make good dolmades with meat!”.  Without the addition of meat you need to pay attention to the herbs and seasonings.  You really can’t add too much but add too little…and you’ve just spent a couple of hours making a big pot of bland rice with grape leaves in it.  Not fun.  So make sure you really crank on the onion, dill, mint and lemon and you will have a pot filled with dark green, glossy little jewels!  They don’t freeze well but they last a good five to six days in your refrigerator.

Dolmades, Greek Stuffed Grape Leaves

yield: approximately 60

  • 1-1 lb. jar grape leaves in brine
  • 2-14 ounce bags arborio or any short grain rice
  • 2 large onions, finely chopped
  • 1 large bunch fresh dill, finely chopped, stalks set aside
  • 1 large bunch fresh mint, finely chopped, stalks set aside
  • 1 large bunch of flat leaf parsley, chopped, stalks set aside
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 2-3 tablespoons lemon zest, finely minced
  • juice of the zested lemons
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

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  1. Heat a large pan to medium and add olive oil.
  2. After olive oil heats up add onions and garlic and cook until soft, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add dill, mint, parsley and lemon zest.
  4. Stir well and add rice stirring so all the grains of rice are coated with the olive oil.
  5. Set aside until rice is cool enough to handle.
  6. Carefully take grape leaves out of jar, rinse well under tap water taking care not to tear leaves.  Set in colander for excess water to drain off.
  7. Cut stems off leaves at the base and reserve any torn leaves.  You’ll use them later.
  8. Using a big pot line the bottom of the pot with half of all the reserved stems and half of the torn grape leaves.
  9. Place a grape leaf, vein side up, on your work surface, I use a dinner plate, smooth out and place one teaspoon of the rice mixture in the center of the bottom.
  10. Fold the bottom of the leaf up, pressing the rice mixture down.
  11. Fold the left and the right sides towards the middle.
  12. Roll the leaf up, all the way to the top.
  13. Place the stuffed grape leaf in the pot on top of the torn leaves and continue to roll, placing the dolmades in the pot in a concentric circle, fitting the smaller ones into any gaps.
  14. When you have no more perfect leaves place the other half of the torn ones on top of the dolmades and the other half of the stems on top of that.
  15. Pour the juice of the lemons into the pot along with a good drizzle of olive oil.
  16. Gently pour water into the pot just up to the top of grape leaves.
  17. Place a sturdy luncheon plate inverted on top of the pot to weight down the dolmadakia, cover, bring up to a boil and immediately drop down to a gentle simmer for one hour.
  18. Taste a grape leaf and if done remove from heat.  If not, continue cooking  until rice is tender to your taste.
  19. Chill overnight in refrigerator.  Serve with freshly cut lemon.

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