Along the Grapevine


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A Recipe dedicated to Selma

This week at Fiesta Friday we are remembering Selma, one of our dear fellow-bloggers who recently passed away. Although I did not know her personally, she became a source of inspiration for me not only with her wonderful recipes, but cooking tips and techniques. She was supportive and friendly in her comments, generously giving of her time to help any of us who asked. You can visit her blog at Selma’s Table and read for yourself her stories and recipes from a wonderful life

She and I shared some favourite cookbook writers, one of which was Yotam Ottolenghi whose recipes so often make use of my favourite garden produce with some tantalizing innovative touches. I decided to dedicate to Selma one such dish from his book Plenty, all the ingredients for which I already had either in my garden or pantry. Well, almost. Instead of verjus I used my own version made from unripe blueberries, and I used sunflower seeds instead of pine nuts. Rather than roasting the small beets in the oven with aluminum foil for 45 minutes, I wrapped them in corn husks and roasted them in an iron pan for 15 minutes. I saved on electricity and aluminum! And the beets take on a deliciously smoky corn flavour. Here is how I did it.

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Place baby beets on corn husks

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Wrap securely and twist the ends

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Cook on medium high heat for 15 min. turning often

The recipe is copied, almost verbatim, with my variations in brackets.

Asparagus, Fennel and Beets with Verjus

Ingredients

1/4 lb mini beets

1 1/3 cup verjus

4 Tbsp grapeseed oil

salt and black pepper

4 to 5 oz fresh pencil-thin asparagus, or normal asparagus

1/2 large fennel bulb (1/4 lb) halved vertically (or 1 very small whole one)

1/4 cup pine nuts (or sunflower seeds)

1 tbsp dill leaves to garnish

Method

Clean and trim the beets. Either bake in an oven-proof dish at 400 degrees F for 45 minutes covered with aluminum foil, or use my method as described above.

Pour the verjus into a small saucepan, bring to a light simmer and leave it to reduce to about 3 tbsps. When cooled, whisk in the grapeseed oil and salt and pepper to taste. Put aside.

If using normal asparagus, cut the spears on a sharp angle into long and very thins slices, or use a potato peeler to make ‘shavings’.

Arrange the vegetables on small serving plates. Scatter with roasted nuts (or seeds). Drizzle on the dressing and garnish with dill.

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I think this salad would go very well with many of Selma’s dishes and I hope she would agree.


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Grape Leaf, herb and yogurt pie

I just returned from my last harvest of wild grape leaves. They are getting a little tough looking, although I found some good ones in shady areas. We are in zone 5a, so I presume here or in colder zones, the leaves are still good for picking and preserving. Otherwise, you might find preserved ones in some specialty markets.

This recipe for grape leaf pie is one of the best reasons I know for collecting and using grape leaves. I have copied it from Yotam Ottolenghi’s book Plenty, and though I have tried to make a different version using more of my own local ingredients, his original remains my favourite. Actually, he found it in an old book called Classic Turkish Cookery by Ghillie Basan, published in 1995. The combination of grape leaves with dill, mint, lemon and yogurt give it a true Mediterranean flavour even with most of the ingredients coming from local sources.The only variations I made was to add a little lemon zest and parsley to the breadcrumb topping, walnuts instead of pine nuts (because that’s what I had) and  chestnut flour instead of rice flour for no particular reason.

Grape Leaf Pie Recipe

Serves 4

20 to 25 grape leaves

4 shallots, finely chopped

4 tbsp olive oil

1 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted

1 cup Greek yogurt, plus extra to serve

2 1/2 tbsp pine nuts, lightly toasted

1/2 tbsp finely chopped tarragon

2 tbsp finely chopped parsley

3 tbsp finely chopped dill

4 tbsp finely chopped mint

grated zest of 1 lemon

1 tbsp lemon juice

salt and black pepper

1/2 cup rice flour

3 tbsp dried breadcrumbs (preferably panko)

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Place the grape leaves in a shallow bowl, cover with boiling water and leave for 10 minutes. Then remove the leaves from the water and dry them well with a tea towel. Use scissors to trim off and discard the bit of hard stalk at the base of each leaf.

Saute the shallots in 1 tablespoon of the oil for about 8 minutes, or until light brown, Leave to cool down.

Take a round and shallow ovenproof dish that is roughly 8 inches in diameter, and cover its bottom and sides with grape leaves, slightly overlapping them and allowing the leaves to hang over the rim of the dish. Mix the melted butter with 2 tablespoons of olive oil; use about two-thirds of this to generously brush the leaves lining the dish.

Mix together in a bowl the shallots, yogurt, pine nuts, chopped herbs and lemon zest and juice, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Then add the rice flour and mix well until  you get a homogenous paste.  Spread this paste evenly in the baking dish.

Fold the overhanging grape leaves back over the top of the filling so they cover the edges, then cover the filling completely with the remaining grape leaves. Brush with the rest of the butter and oil mix. Finally, scatter the breadcrumbs over the top and drizzle over the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil.

Bake for 40 minutes, or until the leaves crisp up and the breadcrumbs turn golden brown. Remove from the oven and leave to rest for at least 10 minutes. Cut into wedges and serve warmish or at room temperature, with a dollop of fresh yogurt.

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