Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Vegetarian Dolmades

"Sorry honey, it was either you or chocolate"
"I get it, sacrifice away, sweetie"
It's almost Clean Monday, the first day of Lent and time to clean out the body, spirit and house! I love this traditional celebration where we grab the kites and head to the hills with friends and family to feast on fasting foods! When I was growing up I would try to think of something that would be a real sacrifice to give up for 7 weeks... chocolate, movies, talking back to my parents. The Greek Orthodox faithful give up meat, poultry, dairy products, eggs, olive oil and wine. I don't find this fast to be much of a sacrifice; well, maybe the wine, but otherwise, the Greek diet is full of tasty, clever dishes. Calamarakia, fish, spinach pies, halva, salads, vegetables and even McDonald's makes veggie burgers to make fasting in Greece a breeze. Vegetarian stuffed grape leaves are also standard fare for the fasting Greeks.You can get very creative with this recipe and add most any chopped vegetable and your favorite herbs to the mix as well. So as you get your kites ready, your house cleaned and the wine and oil put away..... start rolling those grape leaves.

Vegetarian Stuffed Grapeleaves

1 lb. fresh grape leaves or 1 jar of prepared grape leaves
2 onions, finely chopped
5 fresh spring onions, finely chopped
1 cup long grain rice
1 1/2 cup olive oil (or veg. oil if you're fasting)
1 endive, chopped
 2 small zucchini, grated
1 cup fresh parsley
1/2 cup fresh dill
1/2 cup fresh mint
juice of one lemon
salt and pepper

Mix all ingredients in a mixing bowl, using 3/4 cup of the olive oil and saving the lemon juice to pour over the wrapped dolmades (grape leaves). Mix well and stuff the grapeleaves and seal them by enveloping them and put them in a casserole in centrifugal fashion. Pour the rest of the olive oil and the lemon juice over them and 2 cups of water; place a plate over them and bring to a boil. Cover them and simmer for about 1/2 hour or until the water is absorbed.Remove the casserole from the fire, cover with a towel and let them rest for 10 minutes as the steam is absorbed. Serve them hot or cold. We love them with Greek yogurt and fresh lemon juice. These are great starters and can also be served as a main dish with a lemon cream sauce.

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