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Monday, July 12, 2021

Making Gourmet Goodies with the Help of My Garden

While cooking basic meals for my family is a satisfying endeavor, I also like to make a few gourmet treats every now and then. This past weekend, everything seemed to fall into place for me to make some of these goodies.

Several years ago, we planted some grape vines in our yard. That spot has become overgrown with trees and we now never have a grape harvest. However, the vines are nice for making grapevine wreaths and the leaves are edible, themselves. Right now, this season's leaves are a mix of large mature leaves and small to medium tender leaves. The small to medium tender leaves are delicious for stuffing, while the large tougher leaves make an excellent pot liner when steaming the stuffed leaves.

Last Friday, I made a batch of seasoned rice stuffed grape leaves for dinner. I love these and they're really not that complicated to make. I think they're easier than making burritos as I don't have to roll out tortillas or cook beans. I use a dry rice and seasoning filling that I roll into the grape leaves, then simmer the batch in a large pot with chicken broth spiked with lemon juice for an hour, then allow to stand another hour.

It occurred to me that I should harvest a bunch more leaves for stuffed grape leaves at another meal. Saturday, I picked lots of grape leaves, then rolled them into recipe-sized bundles, tied, and blanched before freezing. 

Later in the weekend, I was using a gift certificate that was about to expire given to me by my daughters for my birthday over a year ago. The gift certificate was to a small shop that specializes in lavender products. I was shopping online and put a bag of lavender shortbread into my virtual cart. After remembering my own lavender and mint shortbread recipe, I quickly rethought my purchase and bought something else. My lavender is in a large trough on the deck when I see it every day. I've been eagerly anticipating the development of the buds. 


In the afternoon, I went out and cut a bunch of lavender stems and made my own lavender shortbread cookies and a couple of small jars of lavender honey. I've made the shortbread numerous times in the past, but I'd never made lavender honey. A few years ago, my son and daughter-in-law gave me a jar of lavender honey that they'd picked up at the lavender festival near us. I'd been wanting to make some lavender honey myself and finally had both lavender and honey at the same time.

These little gourmet treats really perk up the meals around here. It isn't just that I save money by making these foods myself. Actually, I'm not sure I'd ever buy grape leaves or culinary lavender to make the items if I didn't grow them in my garden. So, using what I grow in my garden allows us to have these gourmet treats.

5 comments:

  1. I haven't ever had dolmas but they look intriguing. I love to try new recipes so I'll take a look at my grape leaves and see if they are good candidates. Also - do you strain out the lavender from the honey? I have a lot of lavender and have made sachets but not flavored honey.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Ruthie,
      This is my first time making lavender honey, so I'll see how it all turns out. Howeverm I will say that the lavender honey that my son and daughter-in-law gave to me a couple of years ago had the lavender still in the honey. So, I'll be leaving the lavender in the jars for now. But, when I looked up others' experiences, some said to strain the lavender out, some said to leave it in.

      I hope some of your grape leaves are just the right size and tenderness!

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  2. Yum! My hairdresser is Greek and I've asked her where she gets grape leaves for cooking. She told me that she picks them out in the wild. We have occasionally had days when we bake together and teach each other a new recipe/technique. Maybe I should ask her about cooking with grape leaves!

    I've made lavender shortbread cookies before. I feel like I'm making something sort of exotic when I do that! Probably not as fancy as it sounds but it's fun to make something a little off the beaten path occasionally.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Kris,
      Oh that's interesting -- wild grape leaves. What a fun friendship!
      In my book, lavender shortbread IS fancy. I noticed on the back of my recipe card that I have written down that shortbread can also be made with thyme, lemon thyme or rosemary. Those would be "fancy" in my book, too. The lavender shortbread at the shop where my daughters gave me a gift certificate sells for $10 for 8 oz. I think I baked about 16 oz roughly -- so I could say I saved myself $20.

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    2. The first time we got together to bake, she helped me make a traditional Greek Easter bread which involved a braiding technique that I will never be able to duplicate. It looked and tasted like something from a fancy European bakery. And I taught her the no knead bread technique and she was so excited about it. I feel like I'm getting the better end of the learning experience but she thinks she is getting the better end. Funny how we have different perspectives.

      Delete

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