The valley here in British Columbia is prime wine country. Not only do we reap the benefits of a multitude of world class wines, but we are privy to satellite products from the wine industry as well. With vineyards come grapes... with grapes come grape leaves. Fresh grape leaves are beneficial for making all those recipes in the Greek-style that I covet.
You can use preserved leaves covered in brine. Each jar, depending on the size, contains about 60 useable leaves. Commercially prepared leaves need to be blanched and chilled before use or they are too salty and strong.
If fresh leaves are available either from your supermarket or local vineyard gather them in early summer, make sure they come from unsprayed plants. Blanch loose, a dozen at a time, by placing in strong salted boiling brine ( 1 cup salt to 4 cups water). Bring water back to a boil and then remove leaves immediately with a skimmer; and then plunge the leaves immediately into cold/ice water. Drain dry with paper towels or shake dry. Don't omit this, it is done to set the colour and also prevents enzyme action when freezing. Use immediately, or stack in rolls of six, roll from the side and tie, wrap in airtight plastic and freezer bags. You can also can fresh grape leaves...but I wouild never have enough leaves to make it worthwhile.
In Greece baked goat cheese is always on the menu in one form or another. Try this recipe.
Photo is taken in Oia on the island of Santorini in Greece.
**Baked Goat Cheese in Grape Leaves**
- 10 drained preserved grape leaves
- 1/3 cup chopped roasted sweet red peppers
- 1 log soft goat cheese
- pinch pepper
- 2 teaspppm extra-virgin olive oil
Line 6-inch pie plate or oven proof shallow dish with grape leaves, shiny sides down, overlapping to cover side and bottom and letting some hang over edge. Scatter red peppers over bottom.
2. Roll goat cheese by 2 Tablespoons into balls; flatten into 1/2-inch thick discs. Overlap in circular pattern on red peppers. Sprinkle with pepper. Enclose cheese with overlapping leaves, placing more leaves on top, if needed. Brush with oil. (Make ahead: cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. Add 5 minutes to baking time).
3. Bake in 350F oven until hot and darkened slightly, about 20 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes. Peel leaves back to serve.
Makes about 8 servings
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