What’s for supper? Vol. 179: Stuffed grape leaves and Käsewegfall

Let’s have a pahty! Here’s what we ate this week (and don’t miss the video of Benny and Corrie rolling grape leaves like pros):

SATURDAY
Hamburgers and chips

I know I always say I have no memory of Saturday, but this time I really mean it. 

SUNDAY
Chicken sandwiches with basil and tomato

This was supposed to be chicken caprese sandwiches, but I tragically forgot to buy mozzarella. They were still good, but the Käsewegfall loomed large. I had mine with salt and plenty of pepper, balsamic vinegar and olive oil on ciabatta bread.

I also like this sandwich with salami instead of roast chicken, which makes it even easier and cheaper.

Then we went to see Toy Story 4 at the drive in movie, where we discovered, as we re-discover each year, that my vehicle simply will not play the radio with the lights off. The movie was just okay anyway. Our popcorn game, though, was on point. 

MONDAY
Pork ramen

Meh. Sometimes this is a really enjoyable meal, but it fell a little flat. Maybe it was just too humid for ramen. I sliced the pork thin and sautéed it lightly in sesame oil, then finished cooking it in soy sauce. We had soft boiled eggs, scallions, crunchy noodles, pickled ginger, and sesame seeds.

Anyway, I produced hot food. Two cheers!

TUESDAY
BLTs and tiramisu

Birthday! The birthday girl requested BLTs and tiramisu. I can’t claim we have any particular family recipe for BLTs, except that I think we’re up to seven pounds of bacon, which seems excessive to me, especially since I didn’t get the memo that it was okay to take more bacon because somebody went out and bought two more pounds. 

Damien made the tiramisu using this recipe. Pretty tickled that the kids often choose this as their birthday treat. When I was that age, my heart’s desire was a cake in the shape of Garfield. My mother rented a pan and spent an entire day following a guide for where to put little blobs of icing in Garfield colors. Man, I hope I thanked her. 

Here’s an unglamorous shot of the tiramisu in the middle of being demolished.

People added shaved chocolate to their individual pieces.

WEDNESDAY
Pork gryos, fried eggplant, stuffed grape leaves

It had been a big week of being hunched over a computer screen, so I was really glad to throw myself into a big kitchen project. 

I’ve been wanting to make stuffed grape leaves forever. The wild grapes in the yard are having quite a year, so the kids had no trouble finding some fine, clean specimens. We followed this recipe from Saveur, more or less, which makes 60 grape leaves. It’s not hard, but there are many steps. You have to make the rice filling and let it cool, then boil the grape leaves, dunk them in ice water, and dry them, then roll them, then steam them. 

Here is Benny gathering mint, which, as always, is also having quite a year:

And here she is drying off the grape leaves:

The girls did so well rolling them! I was truly impressed at how good they are with their little paws, and also how good Benny is at explaining what she’s doing. At one point, Corrie shouts, “I have a idea! Let’s have a pahty!” She says this several times a day, every day, just in case. Check out her proud smile at the end. 

You know, we’re all having quite a year.

The recipe says to put three layers of leaves in the bottom of the pot to prevent scorching, but I had run out, so I used parchment paper instead. We only made about 30, since I didn’t think people would eat them. 

They turned out so well! You squeeze a little lemon juice on top and have them with yogurt sauce. These are not perfect grape leaves, but they held together and tasted good, and we had a nice time making them. 

I don’t know how to describe the flavor of grape leaves. Not cabbage, not asparagus. They have a sort of cool, woody, herby taste, and they are much more tender than I was expecting. The filling we used was packed with herbs, and the whole thing was somehow both oily and refreshing. I’d like to start making these at least once a year, when the leaves are abundant.  

We also had pork gyros. I marinated the meat in the morning and Damien cooked it outside on the grill. So zippy and tasty. I’ll add a recipe card for the marinade at the end.

I used up all the tomatoes in the marinade, so we had the meat wrapped up in pita with just cucumbers, french fries, yogurt sauce, and hot sauce. Tasted perfect to me. Although honestly I have never gotten used to french fries being in there, and will probably skip it next time. So sue me. My mouth thinks it’s weird to have fries and bread in the same bite. But overall, this was a stupendous meal.

While he was cooking the meat, I fried some eggplant. You have to cut and salt the eggplant ahead of time to draw the moisture out, but the batter is simple and they fry quickly. I love this recipe because it tastes a little bland with the first bite, but this amazing warmth starts to sneak up on you until it’s quite a little pahty in your mouth. Wonderful texture, too — crisp and knobbly, with soft, tender eggplant inside. Very, very fond of fried eggplant. Recipe card at the end. 

THURSDAY
Tuna noodle

I promised the kids tuna noodle, but then realized we’d be out of town on Friday. But a promise is a promise. Damien and I went out for an evening run at dinner anyway, so I really wasn’t hungry when we got back. I think I had beans and pita bread and a plum or something around 10 PM. Summah! 

FRIDAY
And away we go. Oh, there are still adults in the house, so there, robbers. 

Here are some recipe cards:

Fried eggplant

You can salt the eggplant slices many hours ahead of time, even overnight, to dry them before frying.

Ingredients

  • 2 medium eggplants
  • salt for drying out the eggplant

1/2 cup veg oil for frying

2 cups flour

  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1-1/2 cups water
  • 1 tsp veg oil
  • optional: kosher salt for sprinkling

Instructions

  1. Cut the ends off the eggplant and slice it into one-inch slices.
    Salt them thoroughly on both sides and lay on paper towels on a tray (layering if necessary). Let sit for half an hour (or as long as overnight) to draw out some of the moisture. 

  2. Mix flour and seasonings in a bowl, add the water and teaspoon of oil, and beat into a batter. Preheat oven for warming. 

  3. Put oil in heavy pan and heat until it's hot but not smoking. Prepare a tray with paper towels.

  4. Dredge the eggplant slices through the batter on both sides, and carefully lay them in the hot oil, and fry until crisp, turning once. Fry in batches, giving them plenty of room to fry.

  5. Remove eggplant slices to tray with paper towels and sprinkle with kosher salt if you like.. You can keep them warm in the oven for a short time.  

  6. Serve with yogurt sauce or marinara sauce.

Yogurt sauce

Ingredients

  • 32 oz full fat Greek yogurt
  • 2 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • fresh parsley or dill, chopped (optional)

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients together. Use for spreading on grilled meats, dipping pita or vegetables, etc. 

Marinade for pork gyros

Marinate thinly-sliced meat for several hours, then grill over the coals or broil in the oven. Serve wrapped up in pita with cucumbers, tomatoes, french fries, hot sauce, and yogurt sauce. This marinade is enough for about five pounds of meat. 

Ingredients

  • 4 medium tomatoes diced and smashed a bit
  • 2 onions grated
  • 2 Tbsp oregano (or a large handful of fresh oregano, chopped)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 3/4 cup lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp paprika
  • 12 cloves garlic, crushed or minced
  • kosher salt and pepper

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12 thoughts on “What’s for supper? Vol. 179: Stuffed grape leaves and Käsewegfall”

  1. You legend you. I am in awe (especially of your littlies). I am Lebanese and I ashamedly don’t make them for the family (but you’ve motivated me now). I used to help Mum roll them. She blanched the leaves beforehand. She used a filling of cooked mince with raw rice, herbs and the baharat spice mix. And you can always steam them ontop of a bottom layer of lamp chops (fry them on both sides before hand). It gives a really nice flavour to the vine leaves. Pahty indeed.

    1. Yes, our family does the bones in the bottom of the pot too. Or rhubarb stems, which nicely ups the lemony flavor. Or both together works too.

  2. The latest pizza topping trend in my family’s ancestral Italian village is fries. We ate al fresco on the lake at a pizza shop and half the pies had fries.

  3. Yay, grape leaves! How adventurous of you, especially when it’s not your family’s background. My husband’s family is Lebanese, so we make their version, yebret, a few times every spring. They usually have meat (lamb) as well as rice, so they’re even better than dolmas, and they’re pretty much a complete meal, especially with yogurt. Maureen Abood has a good recipe for yebret on her website that’s exactly like my grandmother-in-law’s recipe.

    Also, a couple of insider secrets: 1. No need to do all that preboiling, etc. You can just roll the leaves up raw (washed or not washed, depending on your leaves’ provenance). 2. Grape vine tendrils are edible too (they taste like lemon) and munching on them makes picking the grape leaves more fun for kids. Oh, and also (3) wild grape leaves are actually better for this than domesticated ones, so foraging at a park or other wild place is ideal.

    1. I make dolmas a few times a year and I also don’t blanch my leaves, they do fine straight from the vine. Also, the Greek method is very efficient and will cut down prep time significantly. Simply mix 1/2 cup of raw rice per pound of ground meat along with salt, pepper and all the spices ( cumin, oregano, dill, rosemary and mint). Mix all in a bowl and roll your leaves with the uncooked filling and then steam them with garlic and lemon. The rice and meat cooks during steaming. This method tastes just like a restaurant version and is simple enough to complete with 20 minutes prep and 30 minutes steaming.

      1. Yes, we use uncooked rice & meat for the filling too (I hadn’t notice Simcha’s recipe precooked the filling – I’m kind of surprised they hold together well that way, since ours are held together tightly partly because the rice swells as it cooks), but that said, I do find it takes FOREVER to steam or boil them. The Lebanese church cookbook we have claims it takes one hour, but typically for me it takes at least two hours, if not three for midsummer leaves. My Lebanese MIL says that’s because the Lebanese ladies never paid any attention to time: once they got dinner on the stove, they hung out around town chatting with friends for hours and hence never noticed how long things actually took to cook. And indeed, the church cookbook does seem to wildly underestimate the cooking time for everything.

  4. I’m in awe of the dolmas. It wouldn’t even occur to me to make them unless I was Greek or something, but I love to sneak one into my breakfast bar food from Whole Foods. I also slip in some guilty tater tots (what have I become?) next to the spicy Mexican eggs. I make it a challenge to get in as many yummy things without going over $4.50.

  5. I skirt dangerously close to Kasewegall because I don’t eat cheese. (I love cheese, but it doesn’t love me back.) So I forget to put it on the list, because I don’t eat it and I live with people who eat cheese but don’t feel compelled to inform me of the dwindling cheese supply, so sometimes I see one of them rummaging around and they emerge from the fridge triumphant, “I found the cheese!”

    “Good for you,” I always say.

    1. I like fries on my burgers and hot dogs, but have never heard of it with gyros. It does not shock me though, as fries are often served with gyros.

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