From dill pickles to gin (I love to sip on it, but man, that’s a pretty tough spirit to cook with), there were definitely some interesting mystery ingredients that the chefs had to get creative with on the latest episode of Chopped Canada. But, first of all, let’s give a round of applause to the ladies in the Chopped Canada kitchen, with female chefs taking home the top prize in the first two episodes of the series. That has been really fantastic to see.
When it came to choosing one of the mystery ingredients to cook with at home, I decided to go with grape leaves. I’m a huge fan of shawarma - especially after last call on a Friday night - and I always find dolmades (ground beef and rice stuffed rolls) hard to resist when I’m ordering a donair to go. Grape leaves are available in most quality grocery store chains, but if you’re having trouble locating them, any Mediterranean market or specialty store will stock the leaves. The brine-soaked leaves aren't too enjoyable straight out of the jar. They need a little bit of love to become tenderized before stuffing them; blanching them in their own brine and a couple cups of water for a few minutes always helps.
This recipe is by no means a traditional way of stuffing grape leaves, but who are we kidding? It is January and we’re all feeling bad about eating rich, comforting foods over the holidays. These little guys make a bright and light appetizer that everyone will love.
For something extra healthy, and equally delicious, try swapping out the couscous for some golden quinoa or bulgur wheat.
Couscous, Feta and Currant Stuffed Grape Leaf Rolls
Total prep and cook time: 35 minutes
Makes 30 rolls
2 cups cooked couscous
½ cup crumbled feta
¼ cup dried blackcurrants
¼ cup Cerignola olives, finely chopped
1 tablespoon liquid honey
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 small red onion, diced (approximately ½ cup)
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
Salt to taste
30 grape leaves, blanched
Extra virgin olive oil
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Place the couscous, feta, blackcurrants, olives, honey, pepper, onion, lemon zest and half of the lemon juice in a medium sized bowl and stir until well mixed. Add a pinch or two of salt if needed; it should be salty enough from the olives and feta.
3. Lay out grape leaves on a large cutting board or clean surface, vein-side up.
4. Place a large spoonful (approximately 1 ⅓ tablespoons) of the couscous mixture into the centre of each leaf.
5. Fold the bottom portion of the leaf over the filling to gently seal.
6. Start to roll the leaf forward, tucking in the sides as you go (like rolling a mini, leafy burrito).
7. Place into a medium-sized baking dish, pour remaining lemon juice over top, drizzle with olive oil and bake uncovered for 15 minutes.
Transfer to a serving dish, garnish with lemon slices and finish with another drizzle of olive oil. Serve warm.
Watch Chopped Canada Episode 2: Disheveled Until Dessert
Cheese Wrapped in Grape Leaves Recipe
by Dan Clapson