SARMA (RICE STUFFED GRAPE LEAVES)

Ingredients:

-One jar preserved grape leaves (Usually, drained weight of leaves in a jar is 1lb California grape leaves are usually the good ones to buy)
-2 large onion, very finely chopped
-2 cups long grain rice, washed and drained
-Half bunch fresh parsley,
-Finely chopped fresh mint (or 1 tsp dried mint)
-1 tsp salt and ½ tsp ground black pepper
-1 large tomato
-½ cup of olive oil
-Juice of a lemon
-1 and ½ cups water

  • Note: If the filling was not enough for your grape leaves, put the extra leaves back to the brine. While rolling the leaves if you see a leaf that is torn or not useable, do not discard, keep them so that you can place them at the bottom of the pot to help not burn the leaves during cooking.
  • Place the preserved leaves in a bowl and soak for a few hours in warm water to get rid of the salt from grape leaves.Then drained and rinse each leaf.
  • Heat ½ cups of olive oil in a large pot, and add onions and stir them until they are lightly brown. Add the diced tomatoes and continue to stir them little bit more.
  • Put the rice, chopped parsley, mint, salt, and pepper and stir them for about 2 – 3 minutes.
  • Add a cup of warm water. Turn the heat down and let it cook until no water is left. Let it cool down little bit.
  • Take a leaf, put the shiny side down, and pinch the stem. Place about 1 – 2 tbs of filling (depends how big the leaf is) near the stem and then fold in the end and sides and roll up neatly. Repeat this process until all the leaves are stuffed.
  • Stack the stuffed leaves in a deep and wide pan layer by layer and pour 1 and ½ cups water with lemon juice over the grape leaves and cook that for 40 minutes at medium heat. Serve lukewarm or cold. Garnish with halved lemon slices.

 

BAKLAVA

Ingredients (for a 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking pan):

– 1 package Phyllo dough (pastry sheets)(ATHENS -brand- is better)
(you can get it from any grocery store, in the frozen food section)
– 1 lb unsalted butter
– 2 cups chopped fine walnuts or pistachios

For the Syrup:

– 3 cups Sugar
– 3 cups Water
– A few drops of lemon juice

Notes:

• Try to defrost the dough in the refrigerator the previous day you intend to bake Baklava. If not, the outer sheets may become sticky from condensation in the package as it defrosts. Sticky sheets usually tear as you try to separate them.
• Because the dough tends to dry out so quickly, prepare the filling mixture and other ingredients while the dough defrosts.
• Bring the dough to room temperature before using.
• Don’t worry if the dough gets small tears or cracks in it. The dough is so thin that such cracks are inevitable. Simply brush the area with melted butter, patch up the problem area with a small piece of dough, and brush over it again with some more butter
• Because pastries using phyllo are made with melted butter, always bake them on a pan with a lip to catch any runoff.
• Unused, leftover phyllo sheets can be rerolled and placed in the original plastic bag. Tape to seal the end and place back in the box. Store in the refrigerator for up to a week or refreeze for up to 3 months

Baklava recipe

Preparation time: 1 hour, plus overnight for baklava to absorb syrup
Cooking time: 30-45 minutes on the upper rack of the oven
Yield: Approximately 30 pieces

1. Prepare the syrup by combining 3 cups of sugar and 2 and 1/3 cups of water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Let it boil for 5 minutes and add a few drops of lemon juice. Lower the heat and let it boil for 5 more minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.
2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
3. Chop the walnuts or pistachios finely and put in a small bowl and set aside.
4. Melt ½ lb of unsalted butter in microwave or on stove in a small saucepan.
5. Unroll the defrosted phyllo dough.
6. Brush the bottoms and sides of a 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking pan with some of the melted butter.
7. Place 6 or 7 sheets of phyllo dough on the prepared pan. Brush with melted butter and top with another set of sheets of dough. Repeat the process until you are done with 1/3 of the phyllo dough. Sprinkle 1 cup of the grounded nut over the buttered stack of phyllo. Cover with a couple of phyllo dough each time until you are done with 2/3 of the dough. Sprinkle the remaining 1 cup of the grounded nut over the buttered stack of phyllo. Cover with a couple of phyllo dough by repeating the same process above until you have 5 sheets left. From now on put one sheet at a time and brush the each sheet with melted butter.
8. Make sure that the top sheet is clean, without any tears. Brush with melted butter.
9. Holding a sharp knife vertically cut the unbaked baklava into diamond or rectangle shapes.
10. Bake on the top oven rack for approximately 45 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and the layers are puffed up.
11. Remove from the oven. Let it sit for 5 minutes (if you pour the syrup immediately, your baklava can get doughy / soggy. Then carefully pour (maybe with a spoon) the prepared syrup over the baked baklava equally. When the baklava is cooled to room temperature, you can cover with foil and let it sit overnight before serving (do not put it in the refrigerator since it does not spoil out).