Almost every day I'm exposed to new dishes. Throughout my career I have collected those recipes which I really love and I add them to my repertoire. This is a dish I tasted during a photo shoot for "Al Hashulchan" Magazine (Israel's leading culinary mag), on the topic of Israel's north food culture (be it a very small country, but there is quite a difference in food per region). Chefs from all over Northern Israel gathered at the Mizpe Hayamim (a beautiful hotel, spa and organic farm) and brought with them their signature dish.
My favorite dish from that day was definitely this recipe made by Anat Otolengi of the Scots Hotel in Tiberias, Israel. Rotem (Al Hashulchan stylist) and I were enjoying every last bite of this dish and since then I've make this recipe at least once a month. This dish really makes an impression on people a. because it looks really good and b. because it tastes really good- so I tend to make this dish when I need to do some showing off in the kitchen.
The best part about this dish though- is that it's really easy to make- you don't have to sit in the kitchen for hours rolling grape leaves- 20 minutes and this bake is in the oven.
This dish should be served a yogurt sauce (plain white yogurt seasoned with garlic, salt, mint leaves, a bit of lemon juice and olive oil). You can even add a bit of tahini paste to the yogurt for a richer sauce. If keeping kosher is an issue, then skip the yogurt sauce and serve with tahini. That's it. Enjoy. Danya
Deanna's side note- I'm not a huge fan of stuffed grape leaves, but since we photographed (and ate) this dish, I've made it twice in one week, and the ingredients are waiting for me in the fridge to make it again. I made it for a Friday night dinner and it was a huge hit.
Ingredients for 10"x 12" (20x30 cm.) baking dish:
1 jar (about 12 oz.) brined grape leaves, drained and washed (find in Middle Eastern supermarkets)
3.5 oz. roasted pine nuts
½ cup sun dried tomatoes, chopped
For the filling:
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 yellow onions, finely diced
3 garlic cloves, finely diced
1 pound ground beef, mixed with a bit of lamb fat (or 1 pound ground lamb meat) *if you can't find lamb meat/fat, you can skip it- it just adds a bit more flavor
Salt and fresh ground pepper
Handful of fresh mint leaves, chopped
2 cups Risotto rice
For the sauce:
4 cups water
Juice from one lemon
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 garlic cloves, finely sliced
Salt and fresh ground pepper
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Using a strainer, pour hot water over grape leaves and then wash thoroughly with cold tap water- (this will help them separate and get rid of the brine taste).
- Line the bottom of the baking dish with parchment paper and scatter ¼ the amount of sun dried tomatoes and pine nuts onto the paper. (in the photos we didn’t make the dish with pine nuts, but they should definitely be added)
- Make the filling: on medium flame, heat the olive oil in a large skillet and add the onions and cook for about 7 minutes, until golden. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the ground beef and cook until browned. Season with salt and pepper. Add the rest of the sun dried tomatoes and pine nuts and mix together. Add the chopped mint and rice, cook while stirring occasionally until the rice becomes translucent (about 5-7 minutes). Remove from heat.
- Assemble the dish: line the bottom and sides of the baking dish with a layer of grape leaves (making sure that their pretty side, without the "veins" is facing down). Pour in half of the filling and line again with a layer of grape leaves. Add the rest of the filling and line again with grape leaves, this time let the grape leaves go over the sides of the dish and then fold them in so that all the filling is covered.
- Make the sauce: bring the water to a boil in a medium saucepan and add the lemon juice, olive oil, garlic. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour the sauce over the dish and cover with aluminum foil.
- Bake for 1 hour. Let cool for 15 minutes and then flip the dish upside down onto a serving plate.