Each country and within each country, often each region, is known for certain specific foods/diets. Today, I’d like to discuss Crete and share one of my favorite Cretan recipes with you- Dolmathes: Stuffed Grape Leaves.
WHAT DOE THE DIET IN CRETE LOOK LIKE?
Eating alone is not a “thing” in Crete sharing a meal has been a tradition forever. Cretans are healthy people, living long lives and some say they say it is because of this time-honored tradition of breaking bread together. Their very healthy diet, I’m sure, also helps.
Since the beginning of time on Crete, the diet has consisted of things produced on the island: lots of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and seeds — the seeds of legumes such as lentils, beans, and peas to be specific! Numerous studies have shown that Cretans love their veggies more than other nations of the world. The properties of the island soil give the vegetables a healthy dose of oh-so-necessary unsaturated fatty acids. This type of soil aids in the prevention of heart disease. Typically, the Greeks, cook according to which vegetable is in season. This practice allows putting the most nutritional meals on the table with the freshest and purest ingredients. This is just a guess on my part, but I think the Greeks were growing organically before it even became a thing!
Olive Oil and Its Role in the Diet of Crete:
There are a gazillion olive trees on Crete, so olive oil is used for everything including making sweets. (I’ve been doing this for years before I realized this was a Cretan practice. If you use extra virgin olive oil when making sweets, there is no olive taste to your pastry). Crete is very mountainous with deep valleys. This type of terrain is the perfect condition for growing herbs and aromatics, fruit trees, vegetables, wheat, and barley.
The terrain of Crete is also conducive to growing grapes. Eleven grape varieties play a large role in the production of the wines of Crete. Grapes are grown at altitudes that range from sea level to more than 3,000 feet in soil that is rich in limestone, slate, calcium, and clay. Typically, each year a crop of 46,200 tons is produced under the Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) Crete designation.
We all know that grapes produce some darn good wine but what about the rest of the plant? The leaves are used as well and today, I want to share with you one of my favorite Greek foods: Dolmades. Sometimes., these are served cold as mezes (appetizers and then referred to as “Dolmas”) but they are also prepared as a main dish and served with Avgolemono Sauce (egg and lemon) over them and a Greek salad.
Let’s get cooking, good-looking!
EAT THE WAY THEY DO IN CRETE WITH THIS RECIPE!
This dish can easily be turned into a vegetarian meal by leaving out the minced meat and increasing the amount of rice. You would also substitute chicken stock for vegetable stock.
1 roll (35ggrams)
Amount Per Serving
Calories from Fat 36
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 4 grams
Saturated Fat 1.1 grams
Trans Fat 0 grams
Cholesterol 12 mg
Sodium 220 mg
Potassium 66 mg
Total Carbohydrates 4.2 grams
Dietary Fiber 0.7 grams
Sugars 0.3 grams
Protein 3.8 grams
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000-calorie diet.
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 finely chopped yellow onion
1 lb lean minced beef or lamb
1/2 cup uncooked short-grained rice
1 jar of grape leaves
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
1/2 cup chopped dill (you can use dry dill)
3/4 cup chicken stock
salt and pepper to taste.
Saute the onion and meat in olive oil until it is lightly browned. Add the uncooked short-grained rice, tomato paste, dill, and stock, simmering for about 10 minutes until the stock is absorbed and the rice is not completely cooked. Allow the mixture to cool for several minutes before you move to the next step.
Separate the leaves from the jar and pick out the largest or most complete leaves to use. If you have filling leftover after using these leaves, you can piece together the smaller or fragmented leaves to make more dolmades. Spoon 1 Tbsp of the meat/rice mixture in the center of each leaf. To roll, starting at the base of the leaf, fold the base of the leaf over, then fold each side over, and finally roll the leaf up. The finished roll should look like a cigar.
Layer the bottom of a large saucepan ( I use a Dutch oven pot) with single leaves (or those small or fragmented leaves I mentioned) to prevent the bottom of the pan from scorching. Fitting them tightly, seam side down, place the rolled Dolmades in the pan. It’s perfectly fine to add another layer if all the rolls don’t fit in a single layer. To keep the rolls from unrolling, place a small dish upside down over the rolled Dolmades and push down gently. Add water or if you have more chicken stock, just to cover the top of the dish. Once the water/stock comes to a low boil, lower the heat to a simmer until all the water/stock is absorbed which should take about 1/2 hour.
5 eggs, separated
Juice of 2 lemons or more
1 cup of hot broth, usually chicken
Using a hand mixer, beat the egg whites well, making sure they do not become but not stiff or dry. One by one, add each egg yolk. Very slowly, add the lemon juice and hot broth, best done a ladle full at a time. (It is important, to prevent curdling- the process is called “tempering”), to add the hot ingredients very slowly. After the sauce becomes “smooth”, add salt and pepper to taste. If you like the sauce to be a bit more lemony and tangy, this is the point, where you can add
Serve over the Dolamthes with a Greek Salad! And Enjoy!!!!! Kalo Orraxi! Bon Appetit!
The skill level on this recipe is easy and not very labor-intensive. Leave a comment and let me know how this recipe worked out for you!
Until Next time, friends, remember: “To Travel is to Live”!