Fusion Confusion: Callusion With Cat, Or Sushi... It'S All Greek To Me! - The Well Travelled Spatula Blog at Allrecipes.com - 184651

The Well Travelled Spatula

Fusion Confusion: Callusion with Cat, or Sushi... It's All Greek to Me! 
Jul. 9, 2010 12:06 am 
Updated: Jul. 14, 2010 8:52 pm
The Cat caught me… She played with me and teased me and dragged me into the kitchen, where she continued to torment me. I was helpless… She persisted..., but I liked it! This is none other than THE Cat Hill, of ‘What Do You Want To Do That For?’ Fame… One comment I left on her blog post has spawned a great (IMHO) friendship and a lot of fun.

Something along the lines of (from me) “I like doing fiddly food, like stuffing grape leaves”, and I had a target on my forehead! How do you stuff them, what do you put in them, can you sub turkey for lamb, what else can you do with them? What do you do to the fresh grape leaves before you stuff them? ….Uhhh, WHAT!? No! You buy them in a jar at the store, they aren’t cheap. Oh, I get it! WDYWTDTF? She wants to (no, needs to) use her own fresh grape leaves!

When did I first want to stuff a grape leaf? I didn't really; I was on a quest for a homemade enchilada sauce recipe. (Enchilada sauce, grape leaves – Oh, I see the connection! Clear as gravy!) You never know where my culinary journeys will take me. I've learned all kinds of things; one was about brining grape leaves. Reeaally! Well, it would certainly give me something new to do with all my grapes, besides jelly.

Cat's Grape Vines
No, I am not making wine; I can already make my own beer, and that's food enough for me. So now what? Maybe, I won't have to do a thing.... Someone was going to Greece in their RV. Excellent!! Vicarious sampling! Sadly, she did nothing with grape leaves. Oh, darn now it's "WDYWTDTF?" time with the grapes. But HOW does one go about taking a grape leaf and ending up with something edible? If you are me, you ask or pester the good cooks on the Recipe Exchange.
So how did I proceed in achieving my quest? Please, give a thunderous round of applause to my patient blog partner and culinary guide, Good EatNZ. A chance meeting between two cooks and Fusion Confusion was born! To me, this is the most exciting part of AR; meeting someone new and learning from them (and, with them!) And, of course, the challenge of creating food I've never tried or thought about trying!!!!! What fun it has been!! Lots of new flavors and textures for me to sample. And a definite challenge to utilize some of my under used and unusual herbs like lovage. Also experimentation with brining and pickling. OK, so maybe there might be a bloopers blog from my end on my not so great ideas, but then ones that did work- YUM!
This is when things got interesting. The ONLY thing that it APPEARS you can do with a grape leaf is stuff it Middle Eastern style (as in my recent blog post, 'Mezzin' with Mezze, or Doing Dolmadas'). Our self-imposed challenge was to come up with something different that we could do with grape leaves. One day when writinig an e-mail to Cat, a guy on the Food Network was rolling asparagus in proscuito -- nothing too new there; but, then he sliced it and presented is 'sushi' style (as in my last blog post 'Makin' Maki, or On a Roll with Sushi'), I had an idea -- Greek Sushi! For my challenge, I would use Greek-style ingredients to make sushi-style food. I mentioned this to Cat, and she decided to put her own flavor combos together.

About Greekfood.com gave me lots of ideas to work with so maybe I'll save some of that info for the bloopers blog. (Right, Cat -- don't forget to mention that you smoked some Grape Leaves! Apparently, not out behind the shed, as I originally envisioned, but in a food smoker!!!) The brining, pickles, stuffing of the leaves, typical Greek seasonings and variety of fillings, mostly lamb, rice or a combo of both are all on that site. Hmmm, this is where there seems to have been a great deal of experimentation, and to her credit, some really great stuff came out of it!

So for my stuffings; #1 was to be more Greek inspired with ground turkey subbing for the lamb, cooked up with garlic, lemon verbena, lemon balm, and paprika. I layered the meat mix with goat cheese and fresh pickles inpsired by a Greek recipe (fresh meaning home-made, un-canned cucumbers, onions and carrots pickled in a vinegar and water solution, seasoned with fresh dill seed, fresh garlic, lovage, flat leaf parsley, mustard powder and red pepper flakes). I used my brined fresh grape leaves. I liked the flavor combo, but it wasn't my favorite. I do really like the pickles I ended up with, though.
Cat's Pickling Herbs

Cat's Fresh Cucumber Pickles

Ground Turkey, Goat Cheese and Fresh Pickles on Brined Grape Leaves

For the second stuffed grape leaf treat, I tried shrimp, fresh tomato, and feta cheese. The shrimp was marinated in EVOO with fresh garlic and fresh ground black pepper. Then, I layered the shrimp with fresh tomato and feta cheese on my herbed pickled grape leaves!! I even tried it with some frozen rainbow cherry tomatoes I had, too. That worked equally as well with the raw shjrimp, as all was baked for about 30 minutes(might have been a little long on the cook time) in my handy toaster oven (didn't want to use the big one). The marinade from the shrimp I poured over the stuffed leaves and used it instead of water to cook them in. I did not add salt since top me feta is rather salty. I loved these flavors!!!! Will cook this again!

Shrimps in Marinade

Shrimp and Tomato on Grape Leaves

Feta Added on Top (Look at the CUTE Rainbow Tomatoes!!!)

Shrimp, Tomato and Feta Rolls Cooked/Steamed in the Marinade

I definitely give credit to Good EatNZ for suggesting the shrimp/feta/tomato combo. The turkey/goat cheese/fresh pickles was kind of a combo of some ideas she shared with me. The cheesecake was all mine. In fact, Good EatNZ said she never would have thought of that! LOL! Hey, the picky teen liked it. (Grape Leaf Cheesecake???!!! ROFLMAO! Being innocent about ingreients is a wonderful thing! I LOVE they way you can think outside the box!) Hey, you said Fusion! Just 'cause I might have been a little on the confused side with the dessert idea, but it worked! LOL!

Grape Leaf CHEESECAKE in the Oven!

Thanks, Good EatNZ, for the fun, the challenge and the friendship!

Grape Leaf Cheesecake Awaiting the Picky Teen's Taste Test

My turn! So, the results of my Greek Sushi Challenge!

Typical Greek Ingredients

For my first dish, I wanted to do a sushi style handroll with seafood. In addition to mackeral and tuna, the Greek cuisine includes a lot of baby octopus! So, I marinated them and boiled them for ages until they were tender.

Cooked Baby Octopus

I also pickled some fresh cucumber in vinegar and sugar to replace the pickled ginger that sushi would normally be served with.

Marinted Cucumbers replace the Pickled Ginger in Greek Sushi

Plated Baby Octopus Nigirizushi or Hand Rolls, 'belted' with Grape Leaf

Baby Octoppus Nigirizushi, 'belted' with grape leaf and garnished with Pickled Cucumbers

For my next dish, I decided to to a traditional 'maki' style roll. I used sushi rice, but added mint and dill to it, as I did for the dolmadas, recently. This gave it a good Greek flavor, but the texture of the sushi rice was critical to get the rolls to hold together. I also made some tzaziki with youghurt, garlic and cucumber and used this in place of wasabi. For those of you still choking on the Baby Octopus, this one is a Greek Salad Roll, with cucumber, feta, tomato and olives.

Tsaziki (yoghurt, garlic, grated cucumber and dill) stands-in for Wasabi in Greek Sushi

Sushi Rice on Grape Leaves

Horiatiki Makizushi, or Country Greek Salad Roll

My next roll, unlike traditional Japanese sushi, contains meat. I used ground lamb with mint and other spices to make kefte -- basically small, cigar-shaped meatballs. I pan fried them, and then used them in the roll along with feta cheese.

Kefte and Feta Makisushi, or Minted Lamb and Feta Roll

Close up of Kefte and Feta Roll

And, for our last dish, a cone roll... with grilled haloumi cheese, cucumber, tomato and kalamata olives.

Making Grilled Haloumi, Cucumber, Tomato and Olive Cone Roll

Finished Grilled Haloumi Nigirizushi, or cone roll
While I don't have a picky teen, I do have The Man, who by this stage, thought I was off my rocker (but he was still supportive!) As we sat down to our Greek Sushi dinner, he ate happily. He said, "This isn't bad!" While this mightn't be part of our regular menu, it WAS good and better yet, a lot of good came from it:
  • it was a good challenge ($10)
  • it was a heck of a lot of fun (many hours spent)
  • I made a new friend! (Priceless!)

Chopsticks at Rest!
Jul. 9, 2010 4:19 am
Excellent blog as always! I'll pass on the octopii!
Jul. 9, 2010 6:17 am
Holy cow! I'll take sassy's share of the octopi :-) Awesome blog! What great ideas.
Jul. 9, 2010 6:23 am
well done ladies! I would try the octopus. For another spin on the Middle East, you might try couscous instead of the rice and look at my profile to get my mom's Moroccan Tuna filling. It's my only published recipe. That might be yet another east meets Middle East combo. Nicely done.
Jul. 9, 2010 6:39 am
Greek sushi...what a cool concept! I agree with Avon...couscous would be a fabulous option for this!!
Jul. 9, 2010 10:28 am
Thank you ladies for dropping by and the very nice comments. The octipi I'm not so sure about myself, Sassyoldlady. becca you can probably have mine too ,sorry Good Eat NZ. Never thought couscous Avon but then I'm new at this stuffing things. Never would have thought of stuffing olives either. Kathleen my sister LOVES your stuffed olives!
Jul. 9, 2010 10:31 am
Awesome job Good EatNZ! You did a fantastic job fusing us together. You're stuff looks GREAT!!! Too bad you are so far away!!! Let's see my tomorrow is your today?! :)
Jul. 9, 2010 12:15 pm
That was just about the most awesome blog I have ever read, you two! Sorry I couldn't stuff the grape leaves when I took the RV to Greece, but my husband is ridiculous that way and refuses to eat anything like that. I don't know why. And GENZ, I would totally try the octopus...LOVE IT!
Jul. 9, 2010 5:01 pm
Nice job-very outside the box thinking. Great flavor combos.
Jul. 9, 2010 5:52 pm
Hey WW,you see what happens when I find someone else to pester! :) Ran through the England blog and didn't have time to commment. Loved it and your photo. You should give a big congrats to GENZ for getting ours all together, I swear I'm a dunce with the techno world. But the cheesecake did really work. My next blog has the kid's hand on it while I'm yelling wait! let me take a picture. Wait!! How is Bob, I think of you guys and several others daily! I have not had time to figure out how to see your blogs now or check on you :( Container envy bigtime cause I'm in the gardens or on that stupid horse! Thanks for stopping in girl!
Jul. 9, 2010 5:55 pm
PS. WW the vicarious sampling would have been great if you had done grape leaves, all the other countries have been fantastic to see and sample through your eyes. But then GENZ wouldn't have had so much fun though :)
Jul. 9, 2010 5:59 pm
Ken from CA, thank you for the nice comment. GENZ stuff looks great and alot of this is her idea. Though, I think GENZ thought I was way outside any box with the cheesecake but, hey, Fusion Confusion.
Jul. 9, 2010 6:21 pm
You ladies are amazing! I would never have thought of some combinations you did! My grape vines are only 2 years old and nothing is large enough yet - might just be good for smokin' at this point LOL. Great blog!
Jul. 9, 2010 6:31 pm
Now wait WFDM? most of this is on GENZ. She looked through her cookbooks and suggested and I just leaped from there. Loved the shrimp one I did. Didn't know exactly what she was doing, had an idea but not being the world traveler there is a lot I don't know about cuisine. Didn't she do a great job! WOW! You know, 2 days and you could be in my kitchen. Or vice a versa but it's a little hot in your region right now. Darn. Thanks for stopping by and stay cool 100 and up. Yikes!
Jul. 9, 2010 9:09 pm
Thanks, Sassy, Becca, Avon, Kathleen, WW, Ken, WFDM, and especially Cat! This was one fun project! It pays to think outisde the norms now and again!
Jul. 9, 2010 9:13 pm
I'm trying to figure out if the local winery would sell me grape leaves instead of wine. There isn't a single item I wouldn't try. Great thinking and collaboration.
Jul. 9, 2010 9:18 pm
BSM -- they'd probably give them to you, because they are always pruning! I think you'd want spring leaves cuz they would be more tender, and you'd want to make sure they were spray-free...
Jul. 10, 2010 3:32 pm
BSM, the big thing is to get untreated leaves! Where do you live I got lots!:) Thanks for stopping in and the nice comments!
Jul. 10, 2010 8:01 pm
Loved the blog. Had calamari at Joe's Crab Shack. Part of the dish was the usual sliced tentacles breaded & fried, but the rest of it was the entire little critter deep fried. Looked & tasted just like a cheap, rubbery chew toy. Not tender!
Jul. 11, 2010 2:34 pm
Magnolia Blossom, thanks for stopping in! Sorry GENZ, but everytime I've had octopus it was just like MB described. My guys are salivating to come see you, the old guy said he thought maybe he would even try your Octopus. I would try anything you served but reserve the right to say "I'm sure you have cooked this dish to perfection but my taste buds are sadly lacking!" I loved your peaches and watermelon blog MB. Been thinking of watermelon all day. Wish I had peaches but my trees died due to the fact I don't spray! Got apples though and grapes:)
Jul. 13, 2010 10:04 am
Excellent blog! I would totally try ALMOST all of the recipes mentioned, with the one exception being the baby octopus. Just the thought of putting one of those things in my mouth makes my throat close up LOL!
Jul. 13, 2010 10:42 am
This blog is flippin' awesome- way to go, ladies! Talk about creative- I never would have thought to do Greek sushi. I would try every last one of these creations. Well done!
Jul. 13, 2010 2:31 pm
Keri, thanks for stopping by. I would have to try the octopus just cause GENZ has had some other really wonderful blogs that made my mouth water. I've learned not to read hers in the moring before breakfast! LOL! Again I would reserve the right to apologize for not liking the octopus! This waas such a fun blog to do. Made a friend, learned stuff and tried something new!
Jul. 13, 2010 2:35 pm
Citrus Punch, glad to see you! I kept asking GENZ about the whole stuffed grape leaf thing-what's it taste like etc... Do I want to make it? Then she had the brilliant idea to think outside the "box". So we did! I would have loved to have seen her face when she saw the cheesecake grape leaf photo. Hey it worked! Wasn't bad either. Teen liked it!
Jul. 13, 2010 11:03 pm
Oh, I've just come back to have a look! I forgot to mention that I LOVE the idea of cous cous replacing rice - it might be a bit fluffy for a hand roll but would work in a cone roll and possibly a regular 'maki' roll. This was such a fun project -- I might do this concept for finger food next time I have a party. Thanks everyone, and again esp. Cat!
Jul. 14, 2010 1:14 am
I have been away and it's taking AGES to catch up on all the stuff I need to, so forgive me for being so late to the party. I really enjoyed this - thanks!
Jul. 14, 2010 4:19 am
Why thank you Swiss Phil on behalf of GENZ and I. We had a blast doing this blog!
Jul. 14, 2010 4:05 pm
Insert: ;o) What fun! Priceless, indeed.
Jul. 14, 2010 4:05 pm
Insert: ;o) What fun! Priceless, indeed.
Jul. 14, 2010 8:52 pm
LOL Hezzy, you have no idea how fun it was to do this with GENZ. Being landlocked and country locked, I learned alot from her!! Glad you liked it!! She put it all together!!!
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Good EatNZ

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About Me
As a Californian, now living in New Zealand with 20 odd years spent in the Caribbean in between, my cooking style has had a lot of different influences. After several years in other businesses, we finally came to NZ 9 years ago, and with no experience other than eating in a lot of them, we opened a cafe! Our friends thought we were nuts, and in retrospect, we were. We have now sold that business and are trying to figure out what to do next! Watch this space...
My favorite things to cook
I love to play with Asian inspired marinades/ingredients - getting the blance of sweet, salty, sour and spicy just right. I also seem to be drawn to fiddly foods -- home-made pastas, tortillas, filled won tons and grape leaves.
My favorite family cooking traditions
My mother loved Mexican food, and definately passed the taste on to me. I always loved my mom's enchiladas and tacos, and often whip up something like that quick for dinner. When I have more time, I make home-made Tamales. It's time consuming, but worth it. We have a hard time getting decent whole roasting turkeys here in NZ, but there is nothing like spending a day preparing 'the works' for a holiday dinner.
My cooking triumphs
I recently catered for a group of 18 - 22 for 18 days straight. I had prep support from the cafe (they were able to make all the cookies, muffins, cakes, etc) but I single-handedly managed all the main dishes, plus the organization and ordering supplies. The group was so impressed they gave me a gift certificate and I had a real Sally Fields' moment: They like me! They really like me!
My cooking tragedies
Serving things at dinner parties, not realizing that they weren't things that everyone liked or had tasted before. I was shocked when an important client turned up for the lovely roast lamb and said he had never eaten lamb before! Corned Beef was another one.
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