Last night I made dinner and brought it over to Katherine's house. It was like a picnic, but inside for most of the time (we started outside but it got dark plus the mosquitoes were ferocious).
As appetizers, we had blanched wax beans and...homemade dolmades! I was so excited to make them...though they turned out a bit weird. K and I both agreed that the flavor was good, but my cooking technique needs work. Most of the recipes I found on Recipezaar called for cooking the rice for ten minutes, adding the spices/etc., then wrapping the rice mixture in grape leaves, submerging in water, and cooking for 30-45 minutes, until the rice is done.
Because I'd never made them before, and wasn't using a recipe for my seasoning, I decided not to undercook the rice - I wanted to be able to taste my filling for spices - so I cooked it until mostly done, and cooked the wrapped dolmades for about 15 minutes. The filling turned out decently tasty, though when I filled the grape leaves and submerged them, they got waterlogged and the rice was a little undercooked.
Also, an open note to everyone whose recipe for dolmades instructs the preparer to wrap it "like a burrito":
Have you ever made a burrito? Have you ever had a burrito? Making burritos is easy, because tortillas are not the shape of maple leaves, nor are they approximately as durable as wet paper. Wrapping dolmades is like wrapping tiny doll burritos for dolls made of ash and paste. Also, you're in the afterlife.
But regardless, K and I agreed that the filling had excellent flavor. The approximate recipe for said filling is below. Next time, I'm going to steam them.
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup very-finely minced shallot (I used one gigantic one, probably 3-4 regular
1/2 cup rice (I used basmati, but I'll try arborio next time)
1/2 cup vegetable broth
1/2 cup water
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 tsp dried dill
1 tsp fresh mint, minced finely
pinch red pepper flakes
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Sautee shallot in half the olive oil until translucent. Add red pepper flakes and dill (crumbling dill in your fingers), and stir for a few seconds, until spices become aromatic. Add rice, and stir until grains become translucent; add vegetable broth and water. While rice is cooking, add lemon juice and mint. Cook until almost done, add remaining olive oil and salt and pepper to taste, roll your dolmades, and finish cooking.
Then we had a cheese-laden almost-lasagna whose only claim to good health was steamed kale mixed in with the ricotta, and zucchini slices layered among the many, many cheese layers (ricotta, fontina, and mozzarella, with parmesan on top, of course). It was very delicious.
And then K gave me some chard from her garden!! She just pulled the thing right out of the ground. It looked delicious. And when I was preparing it for dinner tonight alongside veggie sausage and couscous, it smelled very fresh - almost like just-mowed (mown?) grass - and it tasted even better than it looked. Definitely the best chard I've had all season - yum!! Nice work, Gardener K!