America's Test Chicken consists of two separate chickens, each with her own take on this cooking thing. Check out Chicken One's related blog, A Travel for Taste where she shares travel stories and recipes collected whenever she ventures abroad. And give Chicken Two's new, also-related blog, Poop from the Coop a read. There you can find stories about her personal adventure re-experiencing the kitchen after many years away. Please join our Facebook group to share your own recipes, kitchen practices and know-how. We are also on Pinterest and Instagram.
The complete recipes appear at the end of this post.
From Chicken One:
Stuffed Turkish Grape Leaves
This was an exciting recipe for me. You know one of the main goals of this blog is to attempt recipes we've always wanted to try. For the first few months, that's exactly what we did. In that process, we've mostly lost our fear!
A secondary reason for this blog is to explore cuisine from other regions and cultures. Therefore, this recipe fits both objectives nicely!
A little background is in order: I teach English as a second language online. Recently I had a student from Germany whose heritage is Turkish. Through him I acquired his wife's stuffed grape leaves recipe. I love receiving authentic family recipes, so I was eager to try this one. It was not complicated in itself, but the recipe came to me written in German, so I had a little translating to do!
I had to visit three markets to find grape leaves, which was surprising to me. Maybe I should be more judicious in choosing the markets I visit! Once I did, I soaked them in water per the recipe.
Then I made a filling of ground beef, rice, tomatoes and a few other goodies.
Once that was mixed, I tried my hand (first time!) at rolling up the filling in the grape leaves.
Basically you start with the filling at the stem point of the leaf. then you tuck the sides in and roll it toward the tip of the leaf. It's a tiny, green burrito, really!
The photo above has WAY too much filling, but I reduced it when it squished out the sides as I rolled it! SCAFU (Situation Chicken All Fowled UP!)
Eventually I got on a roll (excuse the pun) and ended up with about three dozen stuffed leaves.
I'd only ever had the Greek style grape leaves before making these, and the Greek ones are much thicker.
Language note: Greek ones are dolmades; Turkish style are called either dolma or sarma. For that matter, they are Weinblätter in German. My understanding is that they are essentially prepared the same way anywhere, with small family or regional differences, mostly in the filling.
After resting from rolling up so many of the sarma, I put them all in a pan and poured boiling water over them.
Then I simmered them on top the stove for 45 minutes or so. They tasted wonderful! However, (SCAFU 2) the grape leaves were very chewy and a little tough. I checked with my student and his wife said I should soak them longer next time. Internet sources say to add lemon juice to the soaking water, too, which should help. I'm wondering if a different brand of grape leaves might also make a difference. If any of you know, please leave a comment below.
Two final notes: First, I blanched and peeled my tomatoes before dicing, but you can also use canned peeled and diced tomatoes.
Second, you can make such a stuffed roll with any edible leaf such as chard or even cabbage leaves like Chicken Two's rolls to the right. Cooks mainly use the brined leaves that come in a jar, but if you use fresh leaves you much pickle or cook them before making rolls.
I'm looking forward to making these again. It's one of those things you can easily make into a vegetarian meal or spice the filling any way you like.
From Chicken Two:
Stuffed Cabbage Rolls
When I was growing up, my mother used to make this dish every now and then. I remember wishing she would make it more often. The fun, besides another cooking adventure with Chicken One, was trying to recreate the smell and taste.
My mom used to make it in a pressure cooker, but since this recipe didn't take long to make and cook, I decided to do it in the oven. The option is up to you, of course. Just remember to reduce the time!
Here I'm browning ground beef, but you can substitute ground turkey, pork or lamb.
This is the tricky part: remove the heavy vein from each cabbage leaf. Trust me, it folds better with that stiff vein gone!
Submerge leaves in boiling water for two or three minutes, just until limp.
Fill the rolls.
Don't forget to put sauce on the bottom before placing the rolls in the pan.
Just like mom made! Sorta! They really tasted great, and my dear hubby ate two of them! Give it a try.
Stuffed Turkish Grape Leaves
14 ounces pickled grape leaves
½ cup rice, washed
½ pound ground beef
1 onion, minced
½ bunch flat parsley, finely chopped
2 tomatoes, peeled and finely chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon fresh ground pepper
½ teaspoon mint
3 garlic cloves, minced
Place grape leaves in large bowl and pour boiling water over them to cover. Soak 10 to 20 minutes.
Make the filling: Combine rice, ground beef, onion, parsley, tomatoes, tomato paste, salt, pepper, mint and garlic in a bowl. Mix well.
Make the rolls: place a grape leaf flat on your work surface. Place about 1 tablespoon of filling at the stem point of the leaf. Fold in the sides of the leaf and roll forward toward the tip. Repeat until filling is used up.
Heat a little olive oil in a large pan. Place rolls in pan and cover with boiling water. Cover tightly and bring to a boil. Then immediately reduce to a simmer. Simmer about 45 minutes until filling is cooked. Serve hot.
Stuffed Cabbage Rolls
12 ounces ground beef (or pork or lamb)
1/3 cup chopped onion
1 7 1/2 ounce can tomatoes, undrained, cut up
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup uncooked long grain rice (I used brown rice)
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano or thyme
8 medium to large cabbage leaves
1/4 cup shredded swiss cheese
1 15 ounce can tomato sauce
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp oregano for sauce
1/4 cup shredded swiss cheese (I substituted sharp cheddar)
1. Cook meat and onion until meat is brown and onion is tender. Drain off fat. Stir in undrained tomatoes, water, uncooked rice, 1/2 tsp oregano and 1/4 tsp of black pepper. Bring to boiling, reduce heat, simmer, covered, for 20 minutes or until the rice is tender.
2. Trim veins from cabbage leaves. Immerse leaves, 4 at a time, into boiling water for 2 or 3 minutes or until just limp.
3. Stir 1/4 cup Swiss cheese into meat mixture. Place about 1/3 cup of mixture on each cabbage leaf. Fold in sides. Starting at an unfolded edge, carefully roll up each leaf making sure the folded sides are included in the roll.
4. For sauce, stir together tomato sauce, sugar, 1/2 teaspoon oregano and 1/4 tsp of black pepper.. Pour half of the tomato mixture into a 2 quart square baking dish. Arrange cabbage rolls and spoon remaining mixture over the rolls. Bake covered in a 350 degree oven for 35 to 40 minutes or until heated through. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup cheese. Let stand about 2 minutes or until cheese is melted then serve!