Dolmadákia

Dolma with Lemon Sauce

I was first introduced to dolmadákia, or dolmas, at Colossus of Rhodes, a Greek tavern in Mississauga, Ontario. My best friend and I, big-haired and single in those days, loved the place and enjoyed coaxing gossip from the bartender about the dark, handsome, and very single owner, Manny, who made us feel as if we were his special guests. (We later learned the bartender was Manny’s father.)

I’ve made dolmadákia, or dolmas, over the years but none compared to Manny’s, so I tracked him down (yes, he remembered me!), and he kindly agreed to pass along the recipe. Which he did. Sort of. His recipe contained a list of ingredients, but no quantities, and vague instructions. It seems his skilled dolma maker, of 35 years, does not follow a recipe. Naturally.

After a bit of tinkering, I think I’ve come pretty close to the dolma of my dreams. Thanks to Manny, for the dolma ~ and the great memories.

makes about 46 dolma

Dolma

56 California vines leaves, from a jar

1 pound (raw) ground beef or lamb

1 large egg

2 cups finely chopped onions, about 2 medium onions

1/2 cup fresh dill, finely chopped, stems reserved

1/2 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped, stems reserved

1/3 cup dried mint

1 Tbsp cumin seeds, finely ground with a spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle (if using a mortar and pestle, tip the ground seeds though a fine-mesh strainer to remove any large pieces)

2 cups Arborio (short grain) rice, uncooked

4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 tsp dried chicken broth mix (preferably Knorr brand)

1 1/2 tsp kosher salt

1 lemon, thinly sliced

4 cups chicken stock or water, plus more as needed  (chicken stock yields great flavour)

Lemon Sauce

3 large eggs

juice from three lemons

1 1/2 cups of cooking liquid from the dolmas

1 ½ Tbsp cornstarch

2 ¼ tsp dried chicken broth mix

Garnish

lemon slices

Dolma

Unfurl about 56 vine leaves (some will be damaged), place in a colander and rinse.  Put the rinsed leaves in a large saucepan, cover with water, and bring to a boil, uncovered. Boil gently for about five minutes. Drain the water and allow the leaves to cool.

In a medium bowl combine the beef or lamb, egg, onions, dill, parsley, mint, cumin, rice, 2 Tbsp oil, dried broth mix, and salt. Mix with a large spoon, or your hands, until well combined.

Place four to six vine leaves on your work surface, smooth side down, leaf base facing towards you. Remove the small stem at the base (it’s too tough to digest). Portion about 1 Tbsp of filling near the base end of the leaf. Place the bottom margins of the leaf over the filling, then the left, then the right, then roll the leaf away from you, creating a neat little bundle, as you roll. Place the bundle, seam side down on a baking tray and continue with the remaining leaves and filling. Set aside any broken or damaged leaves.

Layer a heavy-bottomed saucepan or dutch oven with any broken or damaged leaves and the reserved dill and parsley stems. Carefully place the dolmas, seam side down, in a neat circular pattern, starting at the edge of the container and moving inwards, stacking one layer on top of another, if necessary. Drizzle with 2 Tbsp oil, scatter lemon slices on top, and cover with just enough water and/or chicken stock to cover the dolma. Place a pie plate or dinner plate on top of the dolmas to ensure they stay in place (rather than bob to the surface and unfurl).

Bring to a gentle boil and cook for 45 minutes or until the rice is just tender.

Lemon Sauce

In a food processor or blender on low speed, or by hand, mix the eggs with the lemon juice and cooking liquid until well combined. Add the cornstarch and chicken broth, mix until completely dissolved. Transfer the mixture to a small saucepan and gently warm it, whisking constantly, until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Do not overheat the mixture; otherwise the egg may curdle.

Serve the dolmas with the warmed sauce. Garnish with pan-seared lemon slices, if desired.

 

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Parisian Potatoes

Parisian Potatoes

Parisian Potatoes may sound elegant but they’re just everyday potatoes shaped with a dollar store melon baller.  It’s a simple trick that transforms ho-hum potatoes into a dressy side-dish for steak, roast chicken or pork. The potatoes can be sautéed in any sort of fat but duck fat transcends all others.

When you shape potatoes in perfect little orbs, you’ll have enough odd-shaped  leftover trim to use in potato salads, soup, frittatas or savoury croquettes.

Serves 4

6 large Yukon Gold potatoes, rinsed and dried with a clean towel
Vegetable oil, rendered bacon fat or duck fat*
1 sprig of fresh rosemary, finely chopped.
Pinch of dried oregano
Kosher salt

Using a melon baller, carve as many balls from each potato as possible, saving the leftover trim in cold water for future use.

In a heavy skillet or cast iron pan, add about 1 to 2 tablespoons of oil or fat and heat until shimmering.  Add the shaped potatoes in batches, being mindful not to overcrowd the pan. Cook on medium heat, shaking the pan now and then, to ensure even browning on all sides. Test the potatoes with the tip of a knife; they’re done when crisp on the outside and tender on the inside.

Season with rosemary, oregano and Kosher salt.   Serve immediately.

* The last time I checked, duck fat was sold at  Choux Choux Charcuterie and Slaters First Class Meats in Victoria and Oyama Sausage Company at Granville Island Public Market in Vancouver.


Borscht

Image by Deb Garlick

This savoury roasted beet soup is made special with the addition of spicy chorizo sausage and tart green apples. Buy the best chorizo you can afford, it makes a difference. And, if you have the time to make your own chicken stock, do so—there’s simply no comparison to homemade.  

A dollop of sour cream, bright crisp radishes and visually contrasting pistachio nuts dress up this simple rustic soup.

When preparing the beets, don’t toss the nutritious greens! They’re delicious sautéed with garlic and tossed with lemon juice and a pinch of salt.

Makes 8 cups

1 1/2 pounds of beets, with peel, greens trimmed and set aside for another use

2 Tbsp vegetable oil

1 large onion, chopped

Kosher salt

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

6 cups chopped red cabbage, about 1/2 head 

1 large Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and chopped

3 1/2 ounces dry chorizo, chopped into 1/2” pieces 

6 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade   

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1/4 tsp ground cloves

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

1 tsp white sugar

Garnish

1 cup sour cream or plain yogurt

1/4 cup pistachio nuts

2 radishes, thinly sliced 

Fresh mint

Preheat oven to 350°F

Place the beets on a foil- or parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover loosely with foil and roast until the beets can be easily pierced with the tip of a knife. This can take up to 1 1/2 hours, depending on the size of the beets.  When the beets are cool enough to handle, peel and grate them.

Heat the oil in a 5 1/2 quart casserole over medium heat; add the onions, 1/2 tsp kosher salt and cook, stirring occasionally until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and stir until aromatic, about 20 seconds. Add the cabbage, apple, chorizo, stock, vinegar, cloves sugar and 1 tsp kosher salt. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and cook over medium-low heat, partially covered, until the cabbage is tender, about 30-40 minutes. Add the roasted grated beets.

Taste and season with additional salt or vinegar, if desired.

Serve with a dollop of sour cream or yogurt and garnish with pistachios, radishes and fresh mint, if desired.


Fritatta with Onion Relish

Image by Caroline West

 

If you’re looking for creative ways to round up odds and ends in the refrigerator, a frittata is your answer. The recipe, featured in British Columbia From Scratch, is especially comforting when we’re collectively homebound and making an effort to keep grocery shopping to a minimum.

 I love pairing eggs with leftover pasta and barely-melted feta, but your fridge may have a different character altogether. Whatever additions you include, make sure they are well seasoned with a pinch of salt.

Because I use whatever’s available, I offer no firm recipe, only suggestions and guidelines.

All you need are eggs, a non-stick skillet, and a little imagination.

Frittatas are lovely served with red onion relish, below.

1 Tbsp oil, or half  butter/half oil

½ cup chopped onion or shallots

6 eggs, lightly beaten

1/4 tsp kosher salt

freshly ground black pepper

½ – 1 cup cooked and seasoned filling, such as:

roasted carrots, peppers, cauliflowers or potatoes

diced potatoes, pasta or rice

diced ham, chicken, bacon, sausage

diced olives, cooked mushrooms

¼ – ⅓ cup cheese, such as:

crumbled feta, grated cheddar, Parmesan or goat cheese

A handful of herbs and/or finely chopped spinach

Preheat oven to 350 .

Heat the clarified butter or butter/oil mixture, in a non-stick skillet over medium heat and cook the shallots until softened, about 2 – 3 minutes. Add the eggs, salt and a bit of pepper, then add the fillings of your choice, dispersing them evenly over the eggs. Cook partially covered, without disturbing, for about 3 – 5 minutes, or until the edges are firm. Remove the lid and transfer to a preheated oven for a few minutes until just cooked through.

Serve directly from the pan or slide the frittata onto a cutting board and cut into wedges. Serve immediately with red onion relish, if desired.

Red Onion Relish

makes 2 cups

2 Tbsp vegetable oil

3 red onions, about 1½ lb, sliced

½ tsp kosher salt

½ cup red wine vinegar

2 Tbsp honey

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat; add the onions, turning them with tongs to coat them evenly. Add the salt and cook until the onions soften, about 10 – 12 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent burning.

Add the vinegar, scraping the bottom of the pan as you do so. Add the honey, reduce the heat and continue simmering until the liquid has evaporated.

Serve warm or at room temperature. Store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

 


Potato Gnocchi & Sage

Potato Gnocchi with Sage Butter

You can spend your entire life without these little dumplings and not even know what you’re missing. I thought gnocchi were heavy, starchy dumplings that I could live without. A trip to Italy changed all that and now gnocchi is part of my standard repertoire.

If you enjoy working with dough, as I do, making gnocchi is especially satisfying. The soft dough is kneaded when the potatoes are still warm, which pleases my thick hands.

Gnocchi can be prepared in advance and re-heated just before serving. If I’m serving more than two, I make it in advance, so I’m not stuck at the stove, fishing dumplings out of a boiling pot, while my hungry guests wait.

Gnocchi goes well with just about any sauce imaginable but sometimes I like it with a simple brown butter flavoured with sage leaves and topped with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Recipe adapted a potato gnocchi recipe from Rosso & Lukins’ The New Basics Cookbook.

This recipe appeared in EAT Magazine Mar/April 2011

Yield: 6 – 8 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 kg Russet potatoes (about 5 large potatoes), washed but not peeled
  • 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten

Equipment

  • A ricer for processing the potatoes. If you do not have a ricer you can use a food mill, or cheese grater, but a ricer makes the lightest gnocchi.
  • A slotted spoon or small sieve for removing gnocchi from boiling water.
  • A gnocchi paddle, optional (but a lot of fun)

The potatoes can be baked or boiled in their skins, until tender.

Baked: Place (whole) potatoes on a rack in a preheated 375F oven until tender, about 45 minutes.

Boiled: Place the (whole) potatoes in a large pot of cold water. Bring them to a gentle boil and cook until the potatoes can be easily pierced with the tip of a knife, about 45 minutes.

When the potatoes are cooked enough to work with, peel them. While the potatoes are still warm, press them though a ricer, food mill or cheese grater. Place the milled potatoes in a large bowl. Add the whole egg and about half the flour. Mix together with a fork until a soft dough forms. Turn the dough onto your work surface. Pour the remaining flour on a work surface near the dough. (You may not need all the flour.) Using your hands or a pastry scraper, gradually incorporate just enough flour to form a soft, pliable dough. Gently knead the dough until soft, about two minutes.

Divide the dough into 8 portions and roll each portion into a rope about ¾” thick by 12” long. Line up the “ropes” and cut into 3/4” pieces. You may leave them shaped as is for a rustic look or you can press them with the tines of a fork or a small wooden gnocchi paddle. (The indentations help the capture the sauce.) Lay the pieces on a floured baking sheet, with enough space between them so that they are not touching.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and, with a slotted spoon nearby, gently drop the dumplings into the boiling water in batches being careful not to overcrowd the pot. The gnocchi cook very quickly — this is not the time to pour another glass of wine. If you don’t retrieve the gnocchi as they float to the water’s surface, they’ll fall apart. Have a slotted spoon ready and don’t leave your station. There’s time for wine later.

If not serving immediately, toss the just-cooked gnocchi into a bowl of ice water, drain it and toss with a bit of oil. They hold up for days in the refrigerator or weeks in the freezer.

When you’re ready to serve, simply reheat the gnocchi in a saucepan with a bit of sage (or plain) butter. For a change, I sometimes sauté the gnocchi in a bit of oil until crisp and golden on the outside.

sage butter

  • 1 bunch sage leaves (approximately 10 leaves, left whole)
  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan Reggiano cheese

Melt half the butter in a large sauté pan over high heat. Cook the butter until it begins to foam and turn brown. Add half the sage leaves and reduce the heat to medium. Continue to cook until the leaves are crispy, about 1 to 2 minutes. Remove the leaves and add about a cup of gnocchi to the butter and swirl in the pan until the dumplings are coated and heated though. Repeat with the balance of the dumplings and sage.

Serve in warmed bowls. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and garnish with the crispy sage leaves.