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!