One day when my family visited me in Paris we went on a wild hunt for a certain museum that I hadn't been to in the 9th arrondissement, the Jewish quarter. This was halfway into the week and everyone was a little tired from walking everywhere and the Paris cloudy spring weather was not very energizing. I got us lost and in the middle of a street that was starting to blend into every other street, it began to rain. I was hungry and irritated and tired of everyone asking me if I knew where I was going when suddenly we rounded a corner and came upon a falafel stand. I was excited for them to try my new favorite food so I suggested we get lunch. My parents were game but my sisters Cate, Nan and Mary were grumbling a little as fried chick pea balls with picked vegetables didn't appeal to them. We loaded ourselves down with toppings, tzatziki sauce and hummus and as we bit into the first warm and savory bite of pita wrapped around the falafel balls, I swear the rain stopped and the sun started to peak out of the clouds.
|Gypsy Slow Down|
We began walking again and suddenly came upon a beautiful cathedral that I'd never seen before (I promise this really happens in Paris, you just round corners...) so we stopped to check it out. Sitting on a bench nearby were two homeless men, chatting among themselves. They had tin cups next to their feet and their faces and clothes were dirty but I remember they seemed to be relaxing on the bench and in good spirits. One of my sisters went over and gave her falafel to one of the men. He thanked her profusely and immedetiantly started breaking it in half to share with his friend. This touched my other sister and she gave hers to the other man. I'm not thoroughly convinced they didn't have other motives than generosity, like getting rid of the falafel so they didn't have to eat it! But I loved seeing their generous spirit.
When we got together the other night my mom made the falafels and I wanted to try stuffed grape leaves. I found a recipe online, from allrecipes, but I added a few ingredients so I am not sure I can claim that they were totally authentic. I thought I remembered having stuffed grape leaves with meat inside and so I added ground beef. I'm sure my friend Katerina could tell me whether this is how they do it in Greece!
They turned out so delicious, tangy and lemony with just the right amount of richness from the rice, beef and feta. My dad said they were now on his list of favorite foods. The grape leaves themselves were surprisingly easy to work with. They come brined, in a jar, and I forgot to rinse mine but it didn't seem to matter though the recipe did say to do that. I used quick rice and it worked well.
Stuffed Grape Leaves
2 cups quick cook long-grain brown rice (the kind that cooks in ten minutes).
1 pound ground beef
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup chopped fresh dill
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
2 quarts chicken broth
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice, divided
60 grape leaves, drained
Feta for sprinkling
Hot water as needed
|Gypsy Slow Down|