Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Stuffed Grape Leaves

Last week I was catching up with an old friend over cocktails at The Patterson House in Nashville, TN.  If you haven't been - go - order the Brown Derby (not on the menu).  In our discussion, he mentioned that he was driving into to the office that morning when the following thought entered his mind . . . what if I kept on driving?  Took a day off.  Took a week off.  Traveled the world.

Besides the obvious fears of losing his spot on the corporate ladder or running out of money - I didn't have that great of an answer to keep him from just doing it.  Well, until he mentioned he had a 10 o'clock conference call that was "the most important call of his career".  Really?  Turns out the call really wasn't that epic or life changing.

All of us are guilty.  We make goals to reach our destination, without enjoying the journey.  Part of what makes us successful is being uncommon - working harder than the rest and sacrificing our time, energy, and talents to a cause greater than ourselves.  For some it's a pipe dream to drop everything and follow a whim, a passion, or a dream.  For others, that's exactly what brought them happiness - and most often, success.

I get it - I'm supposed to be talking about food.

When I was younger, I never understood why restaurants were able to charge such exorbitant prices for food that was - at best - on par with what I could get at home.  "You are paying for the experience/atmosphere" was the constant response.  It wasn't until I was much older that I finally "got it".  It's nice to be able to walk into a restaurant that's different than my home environment - to get lost in the sights, smells, and tastes without splurging on a plane ticket or hotel room.

Food has the ability to transform.  A taste, smell, or meal can remind us of childhood, a favorite trip, or even an unpleasant experience - it's truly one of those things that can make our senses run wild.

Most of us don't have the luxury of dropping everything to pursue the great unknown.  Responsibilities:  work, wives, significant others, kids, family, church, and community are just some of the things that keep us working in 'the right direction'.  After all, part of being a great man is owning up and tackling responsibility head-on.

I challenge you to use food as your escape.  Instead of getting lost in a bottle of Jack Daniels (I admit - it's sometimes necessary), try out a new recipe, restaurant, or dish.  A simple change can do the mind, and the soul some good.

The following dish is something that totally reminds me of my childhood.  Having a mother with Lebanese roots, I was brought up on all the good stuff.  Seriously, the influence of Middle Eastern cultures, mixed with French influences, has made Lebanese food some of the best on the planet.

I was fortunate enough to spend a holiday weekend at home, and mom was kind enough to divulge a few of her secrets.


Stuffed Grape Leaves

1 lb Ground Beef/Lamb
1 Cup Converted White Rice
4 Cloves Garlic, minced
1 Teaspoon Kosher Salt
1/2 Teaspoon Black Pepper
1/2 Teaspoon Allspice
2 Lemons, juiced
1/4 Cup Butter

Combine all ingredients into a large mixing bowl and mix thoroughly until well combined.  Set aside.

1 Jar Grape Leaves, or about 50 - 60 Fresh Grape Leaves
15 - 20 Cloves Garlic
Lemon Slices
2 Tablespoons Butter, cubed
Kosher Salt

Thoroughly rinse and dry grape leaves.  Add about 10 grape leaves and a few garlic cloves to the bottom of a medium sized, heavy bottomed pot.  Begin rolling grape leaves by laying the leaves flat, vein side up, onto a hard surface.  Add a generous pinch of meat to the end of the leaf, roll over one time, fold the ends, and finally roll up completely, as in making an egg roll.  Place in the pot, seam-side down side-by-side, alternating layers as you reach the top.  Pack the leaves tightly, ensuring an even distribution of garlic cloves amongst the layers.  Add a generous sprinkle of salt over the leaves and evenly distribute lemon slices and butter.  Fill the pot with water, just up to the top layer.  To keep the leaves from unrolling during the cooking process, place a small plate on top of the leaves.  Bring to a slow boil over medium-high heat, cover and reduce heat to simmer, 25 - 30 minutes.  Remove from heat and allow to sit for another 30 minutes before serving. 

No comments:

Post a Comment