Before we were even married my sweet man from Lebanon had to endure the traditional meal of Thanksgiving. I say endure because I had never cooked a Thanksgiving meal in my life. We were living in Switzerland and I had become quite close to the little village I was living in and decided to cook this wonderful Thanksgiving meal for them as a way of bringing us even yet closer. My guest list included the chef of the 3 star village restaurant and my neighbors across the hall because you see I didn't even have a full kitchen in my apartment but my neighbors across the hall did. Along with them came the friends I had made at school and other people I had met along the way. Everything went fine except it took forever for this bird to cook. My new Swiss friends mentioned that it was too early for a Turkey when everyone knows that you only get Turkeys in December. Well in my little mind, a turkey's a turkey any time of year.
Many years later after "This man from Lebanon" and I were married he had a confession to make and that was he couldn't stand Thanksgiving food. Nothing about it grabbed him as tasty. If you know anything about my man from Lebanon, it's that if it's not Lebanese it's not food. So I have spent the last 22 years putting Lebanese twists on French,Indian,Italian and Swedish dishes, oftentimes just placing an olive in the mouth of a pickled herring and saying"Voila, look a Lebanese herring." He is always appreciative at my efforts of learning how to cook Lebanese cuisine and turning other types of food into Phoenician wonders. But folks......not Thanksgiving.......or could I?
As the children have come along we have slowly but surely added "Lebanese" family favorites. It started with the compromise of Tabbouleh, a very famouse Lebanese salad. Daughter #1 asked if we could have grape leaves along with our tabbouleh and "traditional"Thanksgiving dinner. Daughter no 2 asked if we could have her favorite lebanese food of spinach pies. This is how our ethnic Thanksgiving started. It adds two days onto the cooking time of this feast but it has become our favorite holiday. Our young son asked us why we call it "Med Thanksgiving". "
"Well it stands for Mediterranean"
"What does Mediterranean mean?"
"The Middle Sea".
So year after year we cook and gather with friends and share combined traditions and celebrations. I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving weeked. I'm so thankful for the friendships I've met here on this blog. Our times together mean so much to me.
Now it's on to one of my favorite seasons Jul. To get yourself in the mood Gardenmama is having a great giveaway. Not to be missed.
Stuffed Grape Leaves
· One 16 oz jar of grape leaves, Orlando or Ziyad brands are the best
· 11/2 cups of uncle Ben's rice
· 2 onions
· 3 large tomatoes or 1 ½ pounds of roma tomatoes
· 6 cups of chopped flat leaf parsley
· 3 tablespoons of dried mint
· Tablespoon of garlic powder
· 1 ½ cups of lemon juice
· 1 cup of virgin olive oil
· 1 ½ tablespoons salt, or to taste
· 1 tablespoon of black pepper
Layer at the bottom of the pan (Prepare this pan before you start rolling)
· 2 tomatoes sliced into ½ inch rounds
· 1 onion sliced into rounds
· 3 potatoes sliced into ½ inch rounds
To prepare add a layer of potatoes to the bottom of the pot. Continue with a layer of tomatoes and then a layer of onions. This insures that your leaves will not burn.
1. Rinse and soak the grape leaves. Place in a colander.
2. Combine the rice, onions, tomatoes, parsley, mint, garlic powder, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper in a bowl and mix it well. This is your stuffing mixture.
3. Take a leaf and place it with the wrong side facing you. Stem is facing towards you. Cut off the stem and place a cereal spoon full of stuffing on the leaf.
4. Fold the bottom of the leaf up and over the stuffing and tuck it in a bit.
5. Take the right side and fold it over and then the left side and fold it over.
6. Tightly roll it up to the top of the leaf. Yea! You did it! That’s one now you only have about 60 to go. Place it in your cooking pot seam side down. The rolls should fit snug and tight next to each other in the pot. When one layer is done start stacking the grape leaves on top of each other to make another layer.
7. Add slightly salted water to just cover the top layer of grape leaves.
8. Invert a large plate to cover the grape leaves on top of the pot.
9. Bring the pot to a boil on high heat and cook for about 30 minutes.
10. Turn the heat down to medium and add about 1 cup of lemon juice to the boiling water. Cover the pot and cook for 1 hour more. There should be just a little bit of water at the bottom of the pan. I left my grape leaves cool before I take them out of the pan. Place them on a platter and serve with lemon wedges.
Rice: If you use a different type of rice such as short grain your cooking time becomes longer. First the 1//2 hour, cover pot at medium heat for an 1 ½ hours and then place on low for another hour of cooking.