Sigh. I keep thinking of our wonderful vacation this summer in Greece, and especially our days on Crete. Hot and sunny days, jumping waves in the ocean—and some of the best food I have ever eaten. Well, I can’t fly back to Crete anytime soon, much as I would like, but I can replicate the flavors of that stunning island.
So, for Rosh Hashanah last week, I used a cookbook of Crete cuisine for our holiday meal. Among the dishes were homemade stuffed grape leaves, something I never would have thought of making before. Fortunately, our younger daughter was home for the weekend, and her very nimble fingers came in quite handy for rolling several dozen of the appetizers.
The recipe is actually quite simple. The filling is a combination of rice, lemon juice, olive oil, mint, dill, and onion; you can buy grape leaves by the jar and save the step of prepping them. Lots of recipes out there. The one we followed needed some adjustment in proportions and used uncooked rice (which cooks after the leaves are stuffed), but I’ve seen other recipes that use cooked or partially-cooked rice. Once you make the filling, you wrap a spoonful in each grape leaf, kind of like a mini-burrito. Then they all go in the bottom of a large pot, covered with water and a plate to keep them from floating. Twenty minutes later, they’re done. And delicious, much softer, more subtly flavored than the store-bought kind.
I was actually able to wrap one myself, despite wearing annoying latex gloves (an essential so I don’t infect my fingers while cooking), with floppy fingers that are longer than my partially amputated tips. But I’m going to try it again on my own sometime, because I want to see if I can really do it, and they make a great lunch. I still have a few left from last week, and they keep well in the fridge.
Best of all, when I eat stuffed grape leaves (with kalamata olives, of course, a perennial favorite of mine), I can better remember the blue Mediterranean skies and warm waves, the pleasure of a hot-but-not-too-hot day, our wonderful B&B hosts, and the joy of savoring every moment. That’s the best antidote to fall’s onset that I can think of.