Home Grown Tomatoes is a weekly Vegan/Vegetarian column written by Giovanina Bucci
I'm exhausted. Seriously exhausted. I was laying in bed by 8:30pm last night and yet I am sitting here at work wondering how on earth's name I am still so damn tired? I'm sure I can attribute part of it to the fact that I stayed up until the wee hours of morning on Friday enjoying a fabulous night of camping. I haven't been camping since I lived in St. Thomas and although the scenery is a bit different here in Flagstaff, the smell of a campfire, the sound of Widespread Panic on the iPod, PBR pouring from the keg and the taste of grilled veggies is nothing but nostalgic and just as awesome as I can remember. Not to mention my total infatuation with being allowed to be really dirty for a good 48 hours.
There were about a dozen of us sitting around the fire either laughing hysterically or singing along to the guitars being strummed. In between all of this we played a mean round of glow in the dark bocce ball - which, by far, is about one of the most fun things that I have ever done. Go get yourself a set, I promise that you'll never play bocce in the daylight again.
So aside from my total 2-year old style of complaining about being tired, it was a great weekend and I'd do it again in a second:) And onto food land we go...
I don't know about the rest of you, but I am completely addicted to dolmas - they're SO freaking delicious, and in my opinion really fun to make. Traditionally, dolmas are made with lamb, rice, sometimes pork - all of which are stuffed into a grape leaf and then steamed. They're flavored with lots of lemon and garlic and steamed into this magical, somewhat tangy, finger food. Of course, I branched away from the traditional approach.
First off, I "adios-ed" the meat (shocking). I then replaced the rice with cous cous, just to experiment. And finally, I threw in a bit of fresh dill to add another flavor element. I followed this recipe to a tee as far as ingredients go. At the time that I made these I was unaware of the whole boiling/steaming part of the recipe, which is why my dolmas appear a bit dryer (unfortunately). I actually cooked the cous cous beforehand and then stuffed the grape leaves and just let them marinate in the oil and lemon juice. However, what I have come to learn is that you actually don't cook the rice or cous cous beforehand, you instead let it cook while you are steaming the dolmas. This helps the dolmas retain some moisture and gives them an amazing texture. This blog post has excellent pictures of the process of preparing the grape leaf, stuffing it, and rolling it.
Dolmas are a fabulous appetizer to bring to a party - you'll not only get props for all of the 'long hours you put in creating something so creative' but they're a perfect finger food. (Yeah, eating one may leave your fingers a bit oily, but provided you have grown out of the 'I'm ten and use my clothes as a napkin' thing, I think you'll be fine!) I would suggest for the first time to use rice instead of cous cous, just so you can get a feel for how they are supposed to taste - and then branch out from there!