Monday, June 23, 2008


So you dropped by to read about books and writing and found yourself staring at what looks like a food blog, and you’re feeling a bit bait-and-switched. Well, Binky, I don’t blame you. But here’s the thing—this is my blog, and if it did not accurately reflect my current interests, it would be boring to write. If you want information of a more commercial nature (in other words, info that is designed to sell books), click over to my website. I promise to have some book news here next week. If you’re still reading it must be because you want to know more about dolmas, aka dolmades, a Mediterranean treat that involves wrapping an edible substance (usually rice and/or bulgar wheat mixed with flavorings and, perhaps, meat) in an edible leaf.* The leaf most commonly used is that of the grapevine, but you can also use cabbage, chard, lettuce, etc. I’ve been making dolmas on and off for years, always starting with a jar of brined grape leaves. The hardest part has always been getting the leaves out of the jar without ripping a bunch of them. Anyway, after going through I-don’t-know-how-many jars of grape leaves at about six bucks a jar, it finally occurred to me—duh!—that our property is home to dozens of wild grapevines sporting tens of thousands of leaves. I went out and picked about fifty pristine leaves, which took all of ten minutes, parboiled them in salt water, and proceeded to roll up the best dolmades I have ever eaten. I’m going to freeze a bunch to use over the winter. There are tons of dolma/dolmade recipes on the web, and I see no reason to add to them, but I will say this: use a recipe that calls for rolling the dolmades using uncooked ingredients (including raw rice and/or bulgar wheat), and then simmering it in broth for an hour or so. Here are links to a meat version and a vegetarian version, both of which have, IMO, too many ingredients. *If you want to get technical, the terms dolma or dolmade can describe all manner of stuffed food. And if you want to get really technical, there are dozens—if not hundreds—of other names for these little packets—sarma, dolmasi, yaprakes, etc.—depending on the region, ingredients, type of wrapping, etc. I just call them all dolmas, cuz it’s easy to say.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Cooking Lesson (#1—Fresh Morels)

In response to a flood of requests (two), here is how to prepare fresh morels for the table. First, find, steal, or buy some morels.
Cut the mushrooms in half lengthwise. Evict any insects, slugs, arachnids, or other creatures. Knock off dirt. Do not rinse unless absolutely necessary.* Heat a saute pan. Add a lump of butter. When the butter is melted and bubbly, place the morels in the pan. Cook on medium heat for 2-3 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Turn the morels. Cook for another 2-3 minutes.** Eat straight from the pan, or arrange on slices of toast, or mix with pasta, or stir into scrambled eggs.*** That's pretty much it. Bon appetit. * Much of the flavor of fresh morels is in the hymenium, or spore-bearing surface. When you rinse the mushroom, you wash away the taste. ** If the mushrooms are somewhat dry, you can add a little water and cover the pan for part of the cooking time. If they are particularly moist, you may wish to cook them longer (uncovered) to drive off excess water. *** There are thousands of other methods for cooking and serving morels (including the morel polenta I made for dinner last night), none of which are worth the time and bother.