The Liver Experiment Week 5: Stuffed vine leaves with liver and apple

Welcome to the 5th instalment of The Liver Experiment where I will try to acquire a taste for liver. Over a 10 week period I will cook, consume and post my experience once a week about trying to appreciate my food nemesis. I am really enjoying the exchange with my readers with this series all over the social medias and comments. I hope my experiment will inspire you to try the same with your own personal food nemesis. And even if you are determined to hate liver for life I hope you will follow along throughout the whole series.

This is the halfway mark of this experiment already. It feels like it has so gone fast. A friend of mine said jokingly that my exercise motto should be: All we are saying is give liver a chance! At the 5 post mark we have 3 successes, one tolerable recipe and 1 which I found awfulThis week is a definite success and quite an unusual one with Stuffed vine leaves with liver and apple.

Stuffed vine leaves with liver and apple with yogurt

Tasty reading ahead, KEEP GOING… →

Daring Cooks: Stuffed Grape leaves

Our October 2010 hostess, Lori of Lori’s Lipsmacking Goodness, has challenged The Daring Cooks to stuff grape leaves. Lori chose a recipe from Aromas of Aleppo and a recipe from The New Book of Middle Eastern Food.

Stuffed grape leaves are a part of many cultures including the Syrians, the Turks, the Greeks, the Lebanese, the Albanians, the Israeli’s, the Iranians, the Iraqis and the Armenians (just to name a few). Generally speaking the stuffed part could be in zucchinis/courgette, eggplant, tomato or peppers. Really it also extends to stuffing certain types of fish as well. It is suggested that the origin of stuffed grape leaves goes back to the time when Alexander the Great besieged Thebes. It has also been suggested the Byzantines refined and spiced up the recipe and used the leaves of other vines such as hazelnuts and figs.

So yeah if you get a feeling of “déjà vue” your are correct. I am fessing up at least lol. I did this recipe about a month ago for the first time in my life prior to knowing this was going to be the October challenge. I even picked the leaves fresh out of my friend’s backyard. And with time constraints well I am going to use those pics and call it a done challenge. Forgive me? **batting eyes**

Preparation time: The recipe will take up to 2 hours, depending on how fast you roll. You can freeze them before boiling if you want to try to do half of the recipe ahead of time.

If you want to see the recipe given for the challenge go here. But this is what I did a month ago, to see how to prepare fresh vine leaves go here or get a jar of store bought ones. Then do your filling.

Cousous and meat filling

  • ground beef
  • couscous
  • 1 egg
  • onions
  • garlic
  • tomatoes
  • ginger
  • coriander
  • cumin
  • salt, pepper

Cook couscous as per package. Mix everything in a bowl with your hands.

Trim stem off. With  with shiny of leaf down, place a small spoonful of prepared stuffing at the stem end of the leaf, roll about one turn. Fold in the two sides. Continue rolling to the tip of the leaf. The package should be firm, but not tight, as the stuffing will expand while cooking.

I steamed mine. I did no have enough leaves for all the meat so I lined my steamer with parchment paper and flattened my leftover meat on the bottom…like a thin meatloaf. Then I placed the rolled leaves with the seam side down. I placed the basket in a large enough pot with 2-3 cups of broth. Once the broth was boiling I lowered to simmer and steamed about 45 minutes covered.

Finally I prepared a quit sauce to serve with….

Egg and lemon sauce, Greek style:

  • 2-3 eggs, separated
  • 1 tablespoon of water
  • juice of 2-3 lemons
  • broth from the dish being cooked (or hot beef or chicken broth or stock)

Beat the egg whites until foamy. Beat in egg yolks, water, lemon juice, and 2-3 ladle full of broth, beating continuously. Transfer mixture to a small saucepan and heat gently. Whisk while heating, until mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. Do not boil.

The Vine Leaves in your Backyard

I spent the weekend a while back at my friend Karyn’s house which is just outside the island on Montreal. Even if basically part of Montreal for me it still felt like a trip outside of town. We had such a blast with great food (she will one day actually send me a guest blog of the breakfast she made (RIGHT?)) and we had a great day for a neighborhood party in honor of Fire Men Day. NO we saw zero shirtless firemen…I was very upset!

But the first night was one of BBQ, relaxation and cocktails, followed by a relaxing morning by the pool. We were talking about the vegetation and future plans of Kryn’s backyard. “Yeah those are vine leaves used for Dolmades’ she says. WHAT? Like I can just pick some and cook with them? ‘YES, take some” Karyn said.

Well she did not have tell me twice. I left there with 10 leaves. Here is my first dolmades experience! I had no clue what to do with them when I got home. I found ALL my answers here at Ellen’s Kitchen. I know you roll your mixture in the leaves…but what do you do to the leaves? What is the mixture and can I mess around with it? How on earth do I roll the leaf? How do I cook it? Ellen answered all my questions…phew!

Dolmades Recipe

The leaves: real directions on how to use fresh leaves.

Blanch loose, a dozen at a time, by placing in strong salted boiling brine, 1 C. salt to 4 C. water. Bring water back to a boil and then remove leaves immediately with a skimmer or pancake turner; and then plunge the leaves immediately into cold/ ice water. Drain, dry with paper towels or shake dry. Don’t omit this, it is done to set the color and also prevents enzyme action while freezing. Use immediately, or stack in rolls of six, roll from the side and tie; wrap in airtight plastic and freezer bags.

The Filling

Usually dolmas is filled with seasoned rice, sometimes with a bit of meat as well. I invented my own filling, no measurements, just did it by feeling. Ingredients are:

  • ground beef
  • couscous
  • 1 egg
  • onions
  • garlic
  • tomatoes
  • ginger
  • coriander
  • cumin
  • salt, pepper

Stuffing and rolling

Trim stem off. With  with shiny of leaf down, place a small spoonful of prepared stuffing at the stem end of the leaf, roll about one turn. Fold in the two sides. Continue rolling to the tip of the leaf. The package should be firm, but not tight, as the stuffing will expand while cooking.

Cooking

See Ellen’s Kitchen for full instructions but I steamed mine. I did no have enough leaves for all the meat so I lined my steamer with parchment paper and flattened my leftover meat on the bottom…like a thin meatloaf. Then I placed the rolled leaves with the seam side down. I placed the basket in a large enough pot with 2-3 cups of broth. Once the broth was boiling I lowered to simmer and steamed about 45 minutes covered.

Finally I prepared a quit sauce to serve with….

Egg and lemon sauce, Greek style:

  • 2-3 eggs, separated
  • 1 tablespoon of water
  • juice of 2-3 lemons
  • broth from the dish being cooked (or hot beef or chicken broth or stock)

Preparation:

Beat the egg whites until foamy. Beat in egg yolks, water, lemon juice, and 2-3 ladle full of broth, beating continuously. Transfer mixture to a small saucepan and heat gently. Whisk while heating, until mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. Do not boil.