Dolmades (Stuffed Grape Leaves, Greek Style)
`These must be made ahead, although they will keep for up to a week. Try to put them in a container that is high rather than broad. The liquid will cover them better that way,' Barbara Kafka writes.
1 jar grape leaves in brine, rinsed
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1 medium clove garlic, smashed, peeled, and finely chopped
1-1/2 teaspoons dried mint, or 2 tablespoons fresh mint, minced
1/2 cup long-grain rice
2-1/2 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
Carefully remove leaves from jar, separating as many as you will need. Return remaining leaves to jar and refrigerate. Wash leaves in cold water.
To form rolls: Work with one leaf at a time, spreading it out on work surface. With a small sharp knife, remove hard part of center rib and stem end. Overlap the bottom two lobes to fill the gap. Place a rounded teaspoon of the stuffing mixture in the center of the leaf. Fold the sides to the center, then roll up the package from the stem end to the tip.
Finish with the seam at the bottom and place in baking dish. Repeat with remaining leaves as per recipe.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a medium pan over moderate heat. Stir in onion and garlic, and cook for about 5 minutes, or until translucent.
Stir in mint and rice, and cook for 2 minutes longer. Add 1/2 cup water and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 4 minutes or until all liquid has been absorbed. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
To assemble: Use 1 rounded teaspoon of the rice mixture per roll. Place seam side down in one of two 12-by-8-inch baking dishes.
Divide remaining water and 1/2 cup of lemon juice between dishes and cover each with foil.
Bake 50 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to stand, covered, until cool. Place in smaller, deep container.
Pour over remaining olive oil and lemon juice. Cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours. Spoon liquid over from time to time. Serve cool.
Makes 1-1/2 cups, which fills about 50 grape leaves. Crostini (Little Toast)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Slice good store-bought Italian bread into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Place on a baking sheet and brush tops lightly with extra-virgin olive oil. Bake until edges are light brown and centers are crisp, about 10 minutes. One loaf of Italian bread makes about 4 dozen crostini.
This appetizer is excellent topped with the following spread or another spread of your choice: Roasted Red-Pepper Spread
`Very pretty, very good, and a last-minute savior if you use jarred red peppers, which are quite satisfactory. This is easily multiplied and will keep for up to five days, covered, in the refrigerator,' Kafka writes.
14 oz. of roasted red peppers, drained
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley leaves, minced
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons capers, drained
1 medium clove garlic, peeled and smashed to a paste with 1/4 teaspoon salt
Arrange the drained peppers on a double layer of paper towels, and let them dry.
Meanwhile, combine the remaining ingredients in the work bowl of a food processor. Process until the capers and parsley are finely chopped, or work hard with a large knife. Add the drained peppers and process, using on/off pulses, or chop until the peppers are coarsely chopped. Stop several times to scrape down the sides of the work bowl to make sure the mixture is evenly chopped. Check the seasonings and adjust as necessary. Store the spread in a covered container in the refrigerator. Remove to room temperature at least 30 minutes before serving.
Makes 2 cups.