Making a Pantry Staple from Scratch (Quinoa-Stuffed Grape Leaves)

I love stuffed grape leaves (dolmas), and I always have at least a couple of cans stocked in the pantry. While dolmas can technically be stuffed with anything, I’m referring to the grape leaves that are stuffed with rice and various herbs, usually bought canned soaked in oil. Dolmas are one of the few ready-to-eat foods we buy, and I regularly turn to them for a great hors d’oeuvres when unexpected guests stop by, or as a desperate straight-from-the-can snack. I never actually made them though, and the thought hadn’t even crossed my mind until I saw a jar of grape leaves soaked in brine at the supermarket a few months ago. So I bought them, and they sat on my shelf for a while, until I was struck with inspiration on Friday as we were having vegan dinner guests for Shabbat. So with the help of Vefa’s Kitchen, and some extra time on my hands, I concocted a whole grain version of dolmas using quinoa, lentils, raisins, pine nuts and herbs.

Quinoa Stuffed Dolmas

First, the grape leaves need to be rinsed, the stems removed, and the leaves blanched in boiling water, a few at a time, then drained and cooled.

For the stuffing I mixed cooked quinoa with raisins, pinenuts, cooked lentils, diced onion, chopped chives, fresh mint, fresh parsley, dried dill, olive oil, lemon juice and salt and pepper.

To roll dolmas, place about 1 tablespoon of the filling in the center of a grape leaf and roll up (like a burrito–tucking the sides in as you roll up). The rolled-up dolmas are then placed (seam side down) in a large pan lined with grape leaves, and something is placed on top to prevent the dolmas from unrolling during cooking (I used a large pie plate). Next add boiling water, lemon juice and olive oil into the pan, and cook covered over a low flame for about 40 minutes. When done, turn the heat off, and after about 15 minutes, uncover, remove the pie plate, and transfer the dolmas into another container.

They were pretty good Friday night, but the flavor really developed over the next day, and by Saturday night they were outstanding. Compared with the canned dolmas, these were less oily, and the leaves were slightly tougher, but they were still delicious. Would I make them again? Maybe. I’m a sucker for a dish that you can throw anything into and grape leaves are just another vessel for whole grain goodness. But these were a lot of work…you can bet I’ll still be keeping the canned version in my pantry.

The Pantry Pulls Through (Again)

I was so excited that my cousin dropped by after work tonight, and I wanted to make us a nice dinner.  Our last CSA share was almost three weeks ago, and I haven’t been shopping since we returned from a long weekend away, so our kitchen stocks are sadly low (CSA share comes tomorrow, yay!).  This was an evening where I needed to rely on my pantry and the pantry really delivered.  I had a few of the right things and was able to create something delicious from nothing.

Revived Celery Salad

I didn’t have any fresh greens except for a bit of soggy celery and a some parsley leftover from New Year’s Eve.  To firm up the soggy celery, I just soaked it in cold water for 10 minutes (I use this trick for limp salad as well).   Then, I tossed the chopped celery with a can of chickpeas, some pickled red onions* (also leftover from New Year’s Eve), chopped parsley, extra virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper.

Garlicky Green Orzo

This is simply my type of pasta: garlic, olive oil and Parmigiano, with some frozen vegetables that I always have on hand thrown in for good measure.

  • Orzo (any pasta will do)
  • Frozen peas
  • Frozen spinach
  • Garlic
  • Parmigiano Reggiano
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  1. Cook pasta according to the package.
  2. Sauté garlic in oil in a large pan, after a few minutes, add cooked orzo, peas, spinach and toss. Season with salt and pepper. Toss with cheese.

*Pickled red onions from Thomas Keller, Ad Hoc at Home. Boil 1.5 cups red wine vinegar, 3/4 cup sugar. Pour over 2 sliced red onions in a quart jar. Cover for at least 24 hours, and up to a month.

A Frittata and Latke, United at Last!

With Winter here in full force, you’d think that that fresh vegetables from a local NY farm would be something we’d have to live without for a few months.  Well Golden Earthworm doesn’t think so, and they’re continuing to deliver CSA shares full of fresh vegetables from their farm all Winter long! Last week we got our first box and it had a whopping 4 pounds of kale.  I guess I had latkes on my mind still from Chanukah, and I came up with a delicious kale creation that’s half lakte and half kale frittata.  I first made a pan-sized latke, and then layered the frittata ingredients on top.  It has the best of both worlds: Crunch potato crust topped with cheesy, eggy, kale-y goodness.

Layered Potato Kale and Cheese Pancake

  • 1 lb potatoes, shredded in the Cuisinart (keep the skin on for texture added and nutrients, just be sure to wash them)
  • 1 white onion, shredded in the Cuisinart
  • 1 lb kale, washed, chopped, and steamed
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 cup grated cheese (I used asiago, but parmagiano regianno or another hard aged cheese would work great)
  • High heat oil, salt and pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Heat a large heavy bottomed oven proof pan with 2-3 T of oil over medium high heat. Mix the shredded potatoes and onions, and season with salt and pepper. When the pan is hot, add the potatoes and spread the mixture around the bottom of the pan to create an even layer.  Cook for 8-10 minutes until the bottom is golden brown.  Then flip, which is best executed by sliding the pancake out of the pan onto a large plate, then covering the plate with another plate, flipping the plates, then sliding it back in the pan (watch this vintage silent Sustainable Pantry movie about flipping HERE.)
  2. Beat the eggs in a bowl and add the cheese, salt and pepper.  Layer the Kale on top of the flipped potato, and pour the cheese/egg mixture on top.   Put the pan in the oven.
  3. Cook for 10 minutes, until the egg is cooked to your liking.

Fresh Cranberry Beans!

Cranberry Beans

With all the Thanksgiving love going to the cranBERRY lately, I thought I’d throw a bone to that other “cranberry” the BEAN, AKA borlotti bean. On a Sunday excursion to a 24-hour Korean supermarket in Flushing, Queens (one of the million reasons Queens is the best food borough!), I came across fresh, shelled cranberry beans. Fresh shell beans are a real treat, and whenever you find them, grab them up. You can always cook them and then freeze them, but I decided to make a simple bean salad. You can use the cooking method below for any fresh shell bean, and the salad can be made with canned beans or soaked/cooked dried beans. (Cannellini beans work especially well.)

Fresh Cranberry Bean Salad:

  1. Cover beans with about an inch of water, and bring to a boil; cover and turn heat to low. They should be cooked (but still al dente) in about 20-25 minutes.  Drain.
  2. Toss with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, chopped parsley, 1 clove chopped garlic, salt, pepper, and feta cheese.

This is delicious served warm, and would make a complete meal with some roast potatoes and greens. Alternately, you can mash the beans and serve with crustades as an hors d’oeuvres.

Cranberry Bean Salad

4 Dishes for an Autumn Brunch

autumn brunch

Inspiration comes easy when you get the kinds of vegetables that were in this week’s box from Golden Earthworm’s CSA.  We put together a beautiful and simple brunch to highlight the fresh flavors, (and unexpected colors) of this season’s root vegetables.

Sliced Watermelon Radish Salad:

This was my first time working with watermelon radishes, and how thrilled I was to open them up and see that gorgeous color inside! The taste is very similar to other radishes, but it has a hint of sweetness.  Remove the tough green and white skin and serve them raw in salads, or mash them like you would turnips.  I prepared them using a mandoline to get very thin almost translucent slices, and dressed it with a light vinaigrette, sliced scallions and parsley.

Watermelon Radishthinly sliced using the mandoline

watermelon radishes with simple vinaigrette and scallions

Home Fried Potatoes:

Great home fried potatoes are crispy on the outside, and cooked through and fluffy on the inside. There are a few tricks to keep in mind when making home fries. First, steam the potatoes before they are fried. Second, use a heavy cast iron pot that can withstand high heat, and don’t be shy with the oil. Finally: once the potatoes are in the pan, don’t touch them until the crust develops.

  1. Peel and cut potatoes into 1-2 inch cubes, and steam for 5 minutes, until just tender.
  2. Heat a heavy skillet over high heat, and add about 3 tablespoons high heat (safflower, sunflower, canola) oil to the pan. Add 1 chopped onion, and sauté for about a minute, until softened, then add steamed potatoes; add more oil if necessary–there should be a layer of oil under the potatoes.
  3. Don’t touch the potatoes for about 3-4 minutes–allow the crust to develop.
  4. When a crust has formed, flip the potatoes and cook again until crusty. Add more oil as necessary. Flip again if necessary.

home fried sweet and baby potatoes

Leek and Feta Frittata:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F
  2. Chop 2 washed leeks, and sauté over medium heat in olive oil until soft; season with salt and pepper.
  3. Whisk together 8 eggs with 1/2 cup milk and 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese.
  4. Pour egg mixture into pan. Cook on stove top for 1 minute, before transferring into oven for 8-10 minutes.

leek and feta frittata

Root Vegetable Slaw:

  1. Peel celery root and carrots.
  2. Using the grating attachment on a Cuisinart (or a box grater), grate all ingredients.
  3. Toss with olive oil, white wine vinegar, salt, pepper and dried dill.

root slaw ingredientsPeeled Celeriac (celery root)

carrot, turnip and celeriac slaw