Armenian Style Stuffed Grapeleaves (With Meat)

Everyone’s got their childhood memories.  For most children in America their earliest or first memories in the kitchen are grapeleavesprobably sticking their fingers in some sort of ooey chocolatey batter and licking the bowl clean or eating some raw cookie dough while mom or grandma was making some cookies…. Well folks, I have an entirely different type of “first time in the kitchen” childhood memory.  Stuffed grape leaves. Stuffed grape leaves you say?  Yes…and oh how amazing they were!

I still have the very vivid memory of standing in my grandmother’s kitchen with the leaves all lined up on the counter, the stack of cigar shaped leaves that were already done and running by and stealing a few of them before they were cooked.   She would be screaming as I whizzed by… “Don’t eat them raw! You’re going to get sick!” so began my trek of living on the edge!  I never got sick and still to this day, even when I’m making them myself I steal a few! (I don’t recommend that you do this by the way… you can get sick! HA!)  But back to my point… what was my point… oh! I know, my point was that I never got around to asking her for this recipe, nor did anyone else for that matter… she made them the best! As good as I’ve ever had, and over the years I’ve learned to adjust my recipe to what I think hers tasted like…I think I’ve come close!

Making stuffed grape leaves or Sarma as it’s properly called is sort of like the Ceviche I did yesterday… every region has it’s own take on how to do this… some make theirs with only rice and onions, some add parsley, some don’t… some use lamb some use beef… some add coriander some don’t.  It’s all about the region that you are from.

So here it is… the step by step guide with my little tricks for making Grandma Margaret’s Sarma – A.K.A. The best darn stuffed grape leaves you’ll ever eat! (did I just say darn?)

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ pounds of ground beef
  • 1 can or 16 oz of plain tomato sauce
  • 2 cups uncooked white rice
  • ½ small onion finely diced
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • ½ lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 16oz jar of grape leaves

Preparation of the grape leaves and the meat filling:

Remove the grape leaves from the jar… this takes a little bit of jiggling to get them out… they are packed in brine, I suggest sticking a finger in there, and tilting it to the side to remove all of the liquid first, then gently pull the bunches out.  There should be 2 or 3 neatly folded bundles in there, depending on the size of the leaves.  Drain, open up the bunches and allow them to sit in some clean cold water for a few minutes to remove some of the excess salty-ness.

grape leaf

Once they’ve sat for a few minutes, begin removing the stems from each leave.  (If you leave the stems on, they will be too tough to chew)

While the grape leaves are soaking, in a separate bowl mix together the beef, rice, spices, lemon juice and ¾ of the can of tomato sauce- reserving ¼ of the can for use later. Now get in there and use your hands and mix mix mix! Making sure everything is combined well. Set aside in the refrigerator until ready to use.

meat in leaf

Get ready to roll….

Place the leave with the shiny side down, vein side up on a flat surface and spread out.  Place about a teaspoon to tablespoon (depends on leave size) and using the tips of your fingers, pinch it outwards until your’e about 2 inches from each edge.

Fold up the bottom of the leaf then the sides.

Roll upwards tightly.  Don’t roll it up too tight as while the rice and meat are cooking, they will expand and it will tear the leaf or unravel.

In a large saucepan or medium sized pot, lay a few leaves on the bottom of the pan.  Lay each stuffed grape leave side by side next to each other tightly, seam side up and continue making even layers.  Do not fill it all the way to the rim of the pan, as it will as I said expand and well, you’ll have a mess on your hands… or your stove rather.  Layer about 2 inches from the top of the pan and place a small plate upside down on top of the grape leaves and apply pressure to hold it down.

In a large measuring cup mix together:

  •  2 cups cold water
  • Remaining tomato sauce
  • 1 teaspoon crushed mint
  • 2 cups cold water
  • Remaining tomato sauce
  • 1 teaspoon crushed mint
  • 2 cloves crushed garlic (mortar & pestle it into a paste)
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne
  • ½ lemon juice

leafs in pot

Pour this mixture over the leaves, making sure that they are covered just over the top of the edge of the plate on top.  If you don’t have enough liquid, add more plain water.  Cook on high heat until it comes to a boil and then reduce heat down to a low simmer for about 45 minutes to 1 hour, making sure that the leaves don’t move around inside the pot.

You’ll know it’s cooked once you open it and the rice is cooked.

**sidenote**

You can omit the cayenne if it’s too spicy for you.

Look for leaves that aren’t too thick.  Use only the flexible soft leaves

This meat filling can be used to stuff bell peppers, small eggplants, zucchini, or even tomatoes. You’d cook it using the same process.

Once you get the hang of rolling the leaves you’ll be on a roll… ha ha ha (bad joke)

Just know, they don’t have to be perfect!

I hope that you try this recipe… it’s a little bit a work… who am I kidding… it’s work!  But you’ll really love the end result!  I know I always did and still do!

Recipe by Michelle Karam

Let them Eat Grapes… Using as an alternative to Tomatoes: A cooking demo by Chef Marcela Valladolid

antipasto skewer

Mediterranean Grilled Chicken and Grape Skewers

Celebrity chef, cook book author, and host of the Food Network show The Kitchen, Marcela Valladolid joined forces with the California Table Grape Commission to bring a bright flavorful twist to some traditional Mexican meals. As a lover of fruit and Mexican food separately, I must say I never thought the two would ever enter into holy matrimony. How could something so light and sweet beautifully join together with something so rich and savory, I asked? This week Chef Marcela not only showed me how the two join together so well, she made me a believer. Now I see how fresh grapes can be used as an exciting, and texturally crisp alternative to tomatoes, sure to wake up your favorite appetizer, sandwich, taco or entree. 
 
Chef Marcela prepared delightful Grilled Salmon Tacos with Grape Pico de Gallo, which was a vibrant and healthy twist to traditional fish tacos; a Southern California favorite typically prepared with fried fish, cabbage, and a cream sauce. As a big fan of traditional fish tacos, I am an even bigger fan of Chef Marcela’s rendition. It showed me that using grilled fish and fresh ingredients doesn’t mean you have to comprise on flavor. The Grilled Salmon Tacos were a great introduction to cooking with grapes. It was also the perfect segue into more mouthwatering dishes and two cocktails; all made with fresh green, black or red California grapes. The Mediterranean Grilled Chicken and Grape Skewers were beautifully presented, perfectly seasoned and I just could not stop eating them. The Banh Mi-style Flatbread with California Grapes was amazingly delicious, and the Tostadas with Grape and Jicama Salsa, and Grilled Antipasto Skewers featuring grilled shrimp were also crowd pleasers. 
 
The perfect accompaniment for a great meal is an equally great beverage, and these grape based beverages did not disappoint. The Black Grape Margarita had the perfect balance of natural sweetness and freshness that no syrup based cocktail could ever duplicate; and the beautifully delicate Rosemary Grape Martini will have you thirsting for more. 
 
The recipes for these dishes and cocktails are easy to follow and great for everything from a date night, entertaining, or for a weeknight family dinner. Each and every one of these dishes is sure to please your taste buds and make your body very happy. 
 
There are over 80 varieties of grapes, and endless ways to use them. I encourage you to try these fresh and delicious recipes today. The next time you do your grocery shopping buy an extra bag of grapes. Wash them, freeze them and you will have a great low calorie frozen treat, or a nifty way to add coolness and flavor to your favorite beverage.
 
Multi Cultural Cooking Network… Giving you a taste of world… and inspiring you to Eat.More.Grapes.

Written by Lamou Keita

Mediterranean Food Pyramid

The Mediterranean Diet has been proven to be one of the most healthiest diets in the world. At the bottom of the Mediterranean Food Pyramid are breads and cereals which should be consumed daily. A key component is cous cous.

As you move up the pyramid, there are increased amounts of fruits and vegetables (much more than the standard USDA food pyramid).

Mediterranean Food Pyramid

There are smaller amounts of cheese, yogurt and other dairy in the Mediterranean Pyramid than in the USDA pyramid.

Olive oil is a key ingredient in the Mediterranean diet.

Other key points are that: there is VERY LITTLE RED meat that is used in the mediterranean diet and very small amounts of sweets since fruits are eaten as sweets. Olives and tomatoes are the most common fruits. Legumes and nuts are eaten as snacks. Fish and poultry are more common than red meats. READ MORE

Turkish Oil Wrestling on “The Bachelorette”

Ali Fedotowsky of ABC's "The Bachelorette"

If you watched “The Bachelorette” last night, there are a  few things you know. You know that the show was filmed in Turkey. You also know that Justin’s bachelor status was toppled by his annoyed girlfriend who told all about her cheating boyfriend’s desire  to raise his professional wrestling notoriety. Then there was the rekindling of Frank and Ali’s feelings on their romantic one-on-one date, plus the sad send-off for Craig, who went home without a rose. Whew, what a night…huh? Well, one thing that might have really surprised Bachelorette fans was an introduction to a particular form of wrestling that is very popular in Turkey – oil wrestling.

Oil wrestling is the national sport of Turkey.

The bachelors were stunned as the Turkish men came out bare-chest and oiled from head to toe. As the remaining bachelors vied for the affections of bachelorette, Ali Fedotowsky, they too were drenched with olive oil and engaged in some slippery wrestling mayhem.

Oil wrestling is the Turkish national sport, and the sport goes all the way back to the Persian Era (around 1065 B.C.). Oil wrestlers (called pehlivan, from the Persian term meaning “hero” or “champion”) wear a Kispet, short tight trousers made of buffalo leather or calf skin. Once upon a time matches had no set time – matches could go on for hours, even days, but in 1975 the duration was capped at 40 minutes for the bas pehlivan and 30 minutes for the pehlivan category. Matches may be won by achieving an effective hold of the kispet.

The Kirkpinar is the annual oil wrestling tournament, usually held in late June in the city of Edime, located in Turkish Thrace. The tournament has been a fixture in Edime since 1346 and it includes a big fair with music, belly dancing and lamb roasts.

Wikipedia: Example of a full Turkish meal. Adana kebab on pide (also known as berberi) flatbread, served with (clockwise) ayran, radish, parsley lemon, green salad, onion salad, grilled tomatoes, and peppers.

Greek Easter Tradition: Koulourakia

Koulourakia (Greek: κουλουράκια, IPA: [kuluˈracia]) is a traditional Greek dessert, typically made at Easter to be eaten after Holy Saturday.

They are a butter-based pastry, traditionally hand-shaped, with egg glaze on top. They have a sweet delicate flavor with a hint of vanilla. Koulourakia are well known for their sprinkle of sesame seeds and distinctive ring shape. In fact, the word is the diminutive form for a ring-shaped loaf or lifebelt. These pastries are also often shaped like small snakes by the Minoans, as they worshiped the snake for its healing powers.

Now the pastries can be shaped into braided circles, hairpin twists, figure eights, twisted wreaths, horseshoes or Greek letters, although they are still often shaped into a snake style. They are commonly eaten with morning coffee or afternoon tea. Like all pastries, they are normally kept in dry conditions in a jar with a lockable lid.- (Wikepedia)

Armenian Stuffed Bell Peppers

Stuff it!!!  Most of us were brought up to think that meat and vegetables were cooked separately… side by side so to speak… but if you grew up in our house being that we were from Armenian descent, veggies stuffed with meat or dolmas as we called them were part of the norm.  We stuffed grape leaves, cabbage, eggplant, tomatoes and even peppers. 

Stuffing peppers is actually pretty common in a lot of cultures.  Hungarians, Greeks, Italians and Armenians all have some sort of variation for this recipe. 

The one I’m going to share with you today is an Armenian recipe.  You can actually use this recipe to stuff  just about any vegetable that you like!

Red, Green, Yellow… the color of the pepper doesn’t matter! This is one of those no fail type of recipes… go ahead and try… you can’t ruin it!

 This one is for you Lelo… thanks for writing to me for the recipe! I know grandma would be proud of you! –Michelle Karam of Mediterranean Medley on MCCN

 Stuffed Peppers Ingredients

8 Bell Peppers

1 pound ground beef/turkey/chicken

½ cup long grain rice

½ onion finely chopped

¼ cup fresh flat-leaf parsley

1 can peeled, petite dice tomatoes

Juice of 1 lemon

½ teaspoon dried mint crushed

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 small garlic clove minced

salt & pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS

  • Wash the peppers and cut off the tops & remove seeds. Set aside
  • Mix the meat, rice, onion, parsley, garlic, cayenne, salt & pepper and half of the can of tomatoes in a large mixing bowl.  Combine thoroughly.
  • Stuff the cored peppers with meat- do not stuff all the way to the very top. Leave about ¼ of an inch from the top as the rice will expand while cooking and it will overflow.
  • Arrange the stuffed peppers in a large pot.  Pour the remaining tomatoes over the top.  Add the lemon juice, mint  and a little water so thereis approx 2-3  inches of liquid in the bottom of the pan.
  • Cover and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and allow to simmer, covered, for about 45 min, or until the peppers are tender. 

 OPTIONAL: You may serve with a dollop of yogurt or Lebni (Armenian style yogurt- it has a thicker consistency than plain yogurt) on the side

See Michelle’s Recipe:  Mediterranean Fish

Background: Multi-Cultural Consumption of Goat

Goat is thought to have been the earliest animal domesticated besides sheep and dogs. Cave art 10,000 to 20,000 years ago indicates that goats were common and important then. At the present time, goats provide the principle source of animal protein in many North African and Middle Eastern nations. Goat is also important in the Caribbean, in Southeast Asia, and developing tropical countries. Three-fourths of all the goats in the world are located in the developing regions of the world.

Kids (goats under a year of age) are often slaughtered when 3 to 5 months of age and weighing from 25 to 50 pounds. Kids do not store much body fat until they are about a year of age. Many goats are older and heavier when marketed, but most, except aged cull goats, are slaughtered when less than a year of age. The meat of older goats is darker and less tender, but more juicy and flavorful than kid. The meat from males is lighter in color and lower in fat. The meat from females is more desirable for steaks and chops, and is more tender.


Milk, Butter & Cheese

Some goats are bred for milk, which can be drunk raw, although some people recommend pasteurization to reduce bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli. If the strong-smelling buck is not separated from the does, his scent will affect the milk. Goat’s milk is commonly processed into cheese, goat butter, ice cream, cajeta and other products.

Goat’s milk can replace sheep’s milk or cow’s milk in diets of those who are allergic. However, like cow’s milk, goat’s milk has lactose (sugar), and may cause gastrointestinal problems for individuals with lactose intolerance.

Visit the Food History Section at http://multiculturalcookingnetwork.com

*Milk Butter and Cheese info from Wikepedia

Dinner and a Movie: St. George Shoots the Dragon

This photo is taken from Whatsforlunchhoney.blogspot.com

The Dinner:  Serbian food is a blend of the two Empires that it bordered (Ottoman and Austria-Hungary) and the country features a very distinctive shift in meals in every part of the country. From Oriental to European, all types of food influences fill Serbian cuisine.

Grilled meat is considered the national cuisine, however something found exclusively within the borders of Serbia is Kajmak, a treat made of milk fat. In addition there is ajvar, a specialty made from grilled red peppers – it is best served with grilled meat.

The Movie: St. George Shoots the Dragon is the 2009 Serbian Oscar entry, directed by Srdjan Dragojevic and written by Dusan Kovacevic. It is a film that covers the time of the Balkan Wars to the Battle of Cer during World War I. Audiences are introduced to a cast of characters which include a wounded soldier named Gavrilo (played by Milutin Milosevic); George (Lazar Ristovski), Gavrilo’s seargeant in an earlier battle, and Katarina (Natasa Janjic), the woman they both long for. This group become involved in a love triangle and over the

Serbian Oscar entry “St George Shoots the Dragon.”

course of the film the lives of the war invalids and the decision by the Serbian government to send them to the front is explored.

The film is well shot and acted. It is hard to think of a foreign actor who commands screen attention like Lazar Ristovski (who could be likened to Liam Niesem). St George Shoots the Dragon is violent and rough; however, this is fitting since it takes place in the countryside of a war-torn nation. A few gimmicks take away from the film, such as a scene with Gavrilo Princip crossing the border with the main character on his way to assassinate Archduke Ferdinand. Nevertheless, one consistently amazing piece is the score, which is beautifully composed by Aleksandar Sasa Habic. It supports the film through every twist and turn and compliments the imagery onscreen perfectly.Article Written by Michael Fusco Read More  Dinner and Movie reviews at: http://multiculturalcookingnetwork.com/dinner-and-a-movie.html

Dinner and Movie: Stoning of Soraya M.

 

 

Dinner: The movie takes place in Iran. Traditional Iranian food include chelo kabaab, khoreshte sabzi, dolmeh, and cotlet.  Visit MCCN’s Mediterranean Recipe Section.

Featured Food: Dolmeh- Photo by Yadmatravel.com

The Movie: Among the standout films of the year is The Stoning of Soraya M, a powerful drama based on a true story. A young woman is falsely accused of adultery and thereby is sentenced to death by stoning.  Recently, the film has earned a nomination for best foreign language film from the NAACP Image Awards.  The Stoning of Soraya M. is in both Farsi and English.  The Oscar nominated actress Shohreh Aghdasloo stars along with Jim Caviziel.  Eat before you see this film because one is not likely to have much of appettite after screening it.    When I viewed this film at the Los Angeles Film festival, the man who attended the film with me walked out because he deplored and found the situation in the film disturbing.  However, make no mistake although disturbing it is an important and excellent film.

See other socially relevant Image Award nominees in the Foreign language film category at: http://www.looktothestars.org/news/3639-socially-relevant-films-earn-naacp-image-award-nominations

Mediterranean Fish Recipe

Mediterranean Medley Cooking with Michelle Karam

*Recipe by Michelle Karam

Ingredients

  • 1-2 Lbs of Fish (Chilean Sea Bass, Branzino) Any flaky white fish will
  • 1 Red Bell Pepper Sliced A Handful of Small Cherry Tomatoes Halved
  •  1 Leek Quartered and Sliced
  • 2 Tbs. Capers
  • (Optionsl) Juice from 1 Lemon
  •  ¼ Cup Dry White Wine
  • 1 ½ Tsp of Old Bay Seasoning A Sprinkle of Fresh Herbs Can Use Either Fresh Dill, Cilantro, Basil

 COOKING DIRECTIONS:

SPRAY THE BOTTOM OF YOUR PYREX DISH WITH PAM OR SOME SORT OF COOKING SPRAY- PLACE FISH IN THE PYREX- PUT ALL OF THE INGREDIENTS ON TOP OF THE FISH- SEASONINGS, VEGETABLES, HERBS, WINE, LEMON JUICE, CAPERS, ETC…. COVER WITH ALUMINUM FOIL AND COOK IN THE OVEN ON 400 FOR 18 TO 30 MIN- DEPENDING ON HOW THICK YOUR PIECE OF FISH IS- THERE SHOULD BE A LOT OF JUICES ON THE BOTTOM- THEN PUT THE OVEN ON BROIL- REMOVE THE FOIL AND PLACE THE FISH UNDER THE BROILER FOR 5 MINUTES- UNTIL THE FISH GETS A LITTLE GOLDEN BROWN ON TOP- SERVE WITH RICE OR MASHED POTATOES.

See Video of Michelle preparing hummus: https://multiculturalcookingnetwork.wordpress.com/2009/12/05/mediterranean-medley-how-to-make-hummus/