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Greek Vegan Domaldes Recipe

Judy and Yaiyia (Toney) discussing grape leaves at The Raincatcher’s Garden

You remember Yiayia aka Toney Davrados.  Yiayia is Greek for Grandmother and as any Greek Grandma would-she showed us how to make dolmades at our fabulous July  Grape Lecture and Lunch Event.

Now she has offered us the vegan version:

Yiayia’s Greek Dolmades Vegan Style

*Stuffed Grape Leaves with Rice and Herbs

Stuffed Grape Leaves (Greek Dolmades) are often served as part of a mezé (appetizer) plate.  Too often they come from a can and are not fresh. Fresh Greek Dolmades are far superior to the canned.  These can either be a main dish or an appetizer, depending on your appetite. These small bundles of rice and herbs wrapped in grape leaves are a favorite dish in Greece.

Toney surverys our grape leaves to show us leaves that are smooth on the back make better dolmades.

If you have never tried fresh Greek Dolmades, now is the time. They are very easy to make and so delicious!

*Fresh vine leaves: Blanch tender vine leaves for 2-3 seconds in boiling, salted water. Remove them with a slotted spoon and transfer to a bowl full of very cold water. Place in  colander to drain off water. Use a small sharp knife to remove any stems or tough veins they may have.

*When using bottled Grape Leaves:  To prepare bottled grape leaves, rinse well under cold water to remove the brine.  Place them in a colander (back side up) to drain and hold until ready to use

Ingredients

  • 60-70 tender vine leaves
  • 2 bunches fresh green onions, sliced in to very thin rounds
  • 1 large onion or 2 smaller ones, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cup rice
  • 1 1/2 cup water
  • 1 bunch fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 bunch dill, finely chopped
  • 1 bunch mint, finely chopped
  • grated zest of 2 lemons
  • salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • juice from 1 1/2 – 2 lemons

Preparing  filling:

Place a pan over medium to high heat.

Add the green onion, onion and garlic along with ½ the olive oil .

Sauté for 10-15 minutes, until they soften, caramelize nicely and shrink in volume.

Add the rice and sauté for 2-5 minutes.

Add the 1 ½ cup water and stir. Lower heat and simmer for about 5 minutes, until the rice soaks up the water.

When ready, remove from heat and set it aside to rest for at least 10 minutes.

Add the parsley, dill, mint, lemon zest, salt and pepper. Stir to combine.

To assemble:

Spread 4-5 vine leaves, and lemon juice on the bottom of a 22 cm pot. Use any ripped or broken vine leaves.

Place a vine leaf in the palm of your hand or on a cutting board (veins facing up and shiny side down).

Add 1 tablespoon of filling in the center, fold the sides of the vine leaf inward and roll to complete. Review the process here.

Transfer to the pot, placing the stuffed vine leaves in a row, one next to the other.

Repeat the same process for all the vine leaves.

When the first layer has been added, continue with a second and third, if needed until they are all done.

Add the remaining olive oil, and cover the stuffed vine leaves with a plate. This is done so that they don’t fall apart while cooking.

Add the warm or hot water, until they are completely covered.

Simmer for about 40-50 minutes until the rice is done and the vine leaves are tender.

When ready, remove from heat and set them aside to cool in the pot.

Let them cool for a bit, in the pot. They can be served warm or cold and should be enjoyed all on their own!

*Perfect sauce for dolmades

Serve the stuffed vine leaves with yogurt, dill, mint, olive oil and freshly ground pepper.

  • 8oz Yiayia’s Greek strained yogurt
  • 1tsp dill finely chopped
  • 1tsp mint finely chopped
  • 1tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • Fresh ground pepper

Linda Alexander and Ann Lamb

Video by Starla Willis

We ‘Heard it Through the Grapevine’

Champanel grapes growing at The Raincatcher’s Garden

He may not have been Marvin Gaye, but our own Jeff Raska, Dallas County Horticulture Program Assistant, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, had us humming along during his presentation on growing grapes.  A bit of Texas history got us started.

Grape cuttings were first brought to Texas by Franciscan Monks to establish a vineyard in the 1660’s, predating California by almost a century.  The first vineyard in Texas was established near present day El Paso and stayed a viable producer until the early 20th century.

And it was a Texan, viticulturist Thomas Volney Munson, who literally saved the European wine industry when he grafted native American grape rootstocks (resistant to the phylloxera-aphid) to standard European grape scions that brought the industry back from the brink of collapse.

Grapes fall into two categories:

Citis vinifera – a European type grape typically used for wine, table and jams that has a high Brix unit ratio and a thin skin.  Recommended varieties for Texas include Champanel, Lomanto, Herbemont and Lake Emerald.

Muscadinia (Vitis) rotundifolia – a grape that is native to the Americas and thrives in more acidic soils. They are naturally resistant to many diseases and their genetic material saved the vinifera species. Recommended varieties include Carlos, Nesbitt, Tara and Triumph.

To grow grapes, take note:

  • Grape vines need well drained soil and a full day of sun.
  • Vineyards should be planted on high ground to help survive late spring frosts.
  • Good fruit production requires consistent pruning.

For more information Jeff recommends, “Growing Grapes in Texas” by Jim Kamas.

We also learned that grape leaves are rich in vitamins and minerals and low in calories. The U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services lists grape leaves as a healthy choice for your shopping list. https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/dga2005/healthieryou/html/shopping_list.html

Immediately following Jeff’s talk we had the privilege of hearing another special presenter; Toney Davrados. With her rich Greek heritage, culinary skills as a trained chef, and love of gardening and growing her own ingredients, we were mesmerized by her demonstration the art of making dolmas.

Toney’s dolma demonstration

Some helpful tips shared by Toney;

Good dolmas need good leaves. Here’s what to look for; leaves with a smooth underside (hairy or fuzzy leaves are tough and not well-suited for dolmas). You can also purchase grape leaves bottled in brine at a gourmet or international grocery store.

Larger leaves are better – about 4 to 5 inches across. This size makes for easier folding.

Toney folding grapes leaves for dolmas.

Prepare leaves one of two ways:

Immediate use; boil 2 cups water with a heaping tablespoon salt. Toss in leaves for about 2 minutes. (Do no more than 3 or 4 at a time). Leaves are ready as soon as the color changes from bright green to olive green. Remove promptly. Leaves are now ready to use.

Future use: wash leaves, dry thoroughly, cut stems off and stack. Put stacks in zip-lock baggies, press out air and freeze. Wait one month for leaves to ‘cure’ before using.

Hope you enjoy the recipes as much as we enjoyed a delightful lunch experience. A heartfelt thanks to our presenters for sharing your wisdom and expertise. Recipes below.

The grand finale:
Frosted Grapes,
Toney’s Dolmas
(filled with ground sirloin, rice, parsley and special seasonings),
Watermelon and Radish Salad
Yogurt and Berries Dessert Parfait

Click here for Toney’s Dolmas Recipe

Watermelon Radish Salad

Ingredients

6 cups watermelon, cut into bite-sized chunks

2 cups thinly sliced and halved radishes

2 tablespoons finely chopped ginger

¼ cup chopped basil

¼ cup chopped mint

¼ teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons fresh lime juice (approximately 2 limes)

Directions

Combine ingredients in a large bowl. Mix well, serve chilled.

Yield: Makes 6 servings

Frosted Grapes

If you’re a grape grower, try this quick and easy summertime refresher as an appetizer or as a light finish to the evening meal.

Ingredients

4 ounces cream cheese, softened

½ cup sugar

4 ounces sour cream

2 pounds seedless grapes, red, green or a mixture

Brown sugar (start with about 2 heaping tablespoons)

Chopped nuts (start with about 1 ½ cups)

Directions

Mix cream cheese, sugar and sour cream together until smooth. Toss grapes in mixture until “frosted”. Combine brown sugar and nuts. Roll grapes in mixture until coated. Chill until ready to serve.

Yield: Serves 6 to 8

Peach and Berry Parfaits

For breakfast or dessert.

Ingredients

12 ounces Greek yogurt

2 cups granola*

1 pint fresh blueberries

4 peaches, peeled and chopped into small pieces

Texas Clover Honey, to taste

Directions

Layer in parfait cups in the following order;

Yogurt, drizzle of honey, granola, peaches, berries. Repeat, as desired.

*For a dessert option, use Fresh Peach Pound Cake (crumbled).

Toney Davrados sells her products:  dolmas, Greek yogurt, spanakopitas and more on Saturday mornings, April through October at the St. Michael’s Farmers Market, 8100 Douglas Avenue. Arrive early as the products sell out quickly.
Lisa Centala and Linda Alexander
Pictures by Starla Willis

 

 

 

 

 

Recipes from the July Master Gardener Meeting

 

Update on the July 24th Grape Balls of Fire event-we will be indoors, it’s too hot to be outside in our garden and reservation deadline has been extended to Sunday, July 22,2018.

https://dallasgardenbuzz.com/2018/07/16/whats-happening-at-raincatchers/

And now here are the recipes:

Bacon-Wrapped Jalapeño Poppers

Ingredients

½ cup cream cheese

½ cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese

12 jalapeño peppers, halved lengthwise, seeds and membranes removed

12 slices bacon

Directions

Preheat oven to 400˚F.  Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.

Mix cream cheese and Cheddar cheese together in a bowl until evenly blended.  Fill each jalapeño half with the cheese mixture.  Put halves back together and wrap each stuffed pepper with a slice of bacon.  Arrange bacon-wrapped peppers on the prepared baking sheet.

Bake in the preheated oven until bacon is crispy, about 15 minutes.

Tomato & Basil Soup

adapted from Cold Soups, by Linda Ziedrich

volume = 1.75 c

1 Tbsp + 2 Tbsp olive oil

1/4 med onion, chopped

1 pound tomatoes, cut into chunks

1/2 cup basil leaves, packed loosely

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1.5 tsp balsamic vinegar

Heat 1 Tbsp oil, add the onion, and sauté over medium heat until soft.

Add the tomatoes, and cook until the tomatoes are soft, about 15 minutes.

Put the remaining 2 Tbsp oil, basil, garlic and vinegar in blender and blend.  Add the tomato mixture to the mixture in the blender.  Blend until smooth.

Chill and serve.

*For a fun presentation, cut off the tops of a Campari tomato and scoop out the insides.  Fill with soup and garnish with a basil leaf.

Strawberry Balsamic Popsicles

adapted from Perfect Pops by Charity Ferreira

volume 1 cup

1/2 pound diced strawberries (1/2” dice) – about 1.5 c after hulling

2 T sugar (white, granulated)

1 t balsamic vinegar

black pepper

Pulse the strawberries and sugar in a food processor to get a fine chop – juicy, but chunky

Add the vinegar and a few grinds of pepper (a coarser grind gives you a more pronounced bite)

Let the mixture sit out a bit, say 30 minutes, to allow strawberry juice to accumulate

Stir, pour into molds and freeze

*Using the mini-ice cube molds (they hold 2 tsp each), the above recipe will make 24 popsicles.

Cinnamon Basil Polenta Cookies

Ingredients

½ cup yellow cornmeal, preferably stone-ground

¾ cup bleached all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1 teaspoon baking powder

Pinch of coarse salt

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 tablespoons (packed) whole cinnamon basil leaves

½ cup granulated sugar

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

2 tablespoons vegetable shortening

1 egg yolk

2 tablespoons half-and-half or cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Confectioners’ sugar to garnish (optional)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350˚F.

Whisk together cornmeal, flour, cornstarch, baking powder, salt and cinnamon; set aside. In a food processor or blender, whiz cinnamon basil leaves and sugar until leaves are finely ground. Transfer to a medium bowl; add butter and vegetable shortening. Beat on high speed until light and fluffy. Scrape down sides with a spatula and add egg yolk, half-and-half and vanilla; beat until combined well. With mixer running, slowly add flour mixture until combined.

Scoop out heaping teaspoons of dough onto parchment paper-lined baking sheets, placing them 2 inches apart. Bake 10 to 12 minutes, until golden. Remove to racks and let cool; dust with confectioners’ sugar before serving or storing, if desired. Store in an airtight container.

Yield: 3 Dozen Cookies

 

 

DON’T GO BLACKBERRY BUSH PICKING WITHOUT THE BBQ

Jim and I share many things, a love of dessert, finding just the right pencil for his beloved Martha’s crosswords, and The File.

My life was simple before The File. No longer.

For the last six weeks, my tired brain has been filled with the minutiae of helping Jim pick out trees and berries for an orchard at the Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills.   (We tried to have an orchard at the garden on Joe Field Road, but for various reasons, it didn’t come to pass.)

The File is a brown manila folder about 1½ inches thick filled with downloads, printed emails, notes from extension agents, a parts list for  a grape trellis, and receipts.

It comes with a complimentary bottle of Extra Strength Tylenol.

Jim knew right off the bat that he wanted the orchard to demonstrate pears, peaches, plums, persimmons, pomegranates, and “phigs.”  Grapes, blackberries, and asparagus rounded out the list.

Apples, too. Well, until we found out about the sex lives of pears, but we’ll get to that in a minute.

Jim downloaded recommendations for North and Northeast Texas from Dr. George Ray McEachern, Professor and Extension Horticulturist with the Texas A&M Department of Horticultural Sciences.  This is the guy Texas Monthly calls when they want the inside scoop on the pecan industry in Texas.

We also looked up fact sheets on each crop by Larry Stein, Extension Fruit Specialist with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension.  The peach article alone is 14 pages long.

Peaches, plum, apples, and pears are fruit tree crops that require a certain amount of cold winter weather, measured in chilling hours, to end their dormancy and promote proper blooming and spring growth, according to Doug Welsh in his Texas Garden Almanac.  Chilling hours are the number of hours during which temperatures are below 45 degrees and above 32 degrees.  If you goof, and plant a variety that requires more chilling than it receives in your garden, the tree may not bloom fully—or at all.  Dallas-Fort Worth falls in the 800-hour zone.

Pollination is a big deciding factor, too.  Without pollination, a fruit tree may blossom abundantly, but fruit will not develop.  Some trees require pollination from another variety and are called “self-unfruitful.”  Other trees are “self-fruitful” and can produce fruit from their own pollen.  Then, just to make it more fun, some fruit trees can have varieties that are self-fruitful and-–don’t you just love this—other varieties that are self-unfruitful.  (Remember, the Tylenol is complimentary.)

Briefly, Jim’s first choice for a peach was ‘Redskin,’ a free-stone variety with yellow flesh that matures about July 20th.  With our high alkaline soil, we needed the ‘Redskin’ grafted on Halford Rootstock, which led us to barbecue in West Texas.  (More on that later.)

Abbe Planting Peach Tree

Abbe Planting Peach Tree

The number of peach varieties is mind-boggling.  Freestone, cling, or semi-cling? Ripening date? White or yellow flesh? The real basis of selection, however, is matching the chilling requirements of the variety with the chilling hours expected in your area.  ‘Redskin’ requires 750 chilling hours.  Peaches are self-fruitful.

Compared with peaches, there are very few varieties of plums adapted to Texas.  Jim chose ‘Ozark Premier,’ a large variety with red-and-cream streaked skin and yellow flesh that matures in late June. This plum is self-fruitful–but other varieties of plums are self-unfruitful.

Texas has a few native persimmons, but the Japanese persimmon is preferred by most gardeners because of its large fruit.  Jim picked  ‘Eureka,’ a self-fruiting variety recommended by Dr. McEachern.  ‘Eureka’ produces bright orange fruit as large as teacups in the fall.

We purchased a ‘Celeste,’ fig that is a smaller, brown “sugar” fig with sweet pink flesh and purple skin.  ‘Celeste’ matures in August.  Water is a big consideration with figs.  The trees will drop their fruit if drought-stressed and need heavy mulch and moist soils when developing their crop.  (Note to self: is fig on irrigation plan? I’m planning on fig preserves.)

Sarah brought the pomegranate from her backyard.  It was dug up and potted at the Joe Field garden, then pampered at Sarah’s for several months.

The big question with blackberries is, thorns? Or thornless? We decided to try a bit of both.  We purchased the time-tested thorned blackberry ‘Rosborough,’ the most popular of the TAMU releases.  It has a large berry, is disease resistant, and is widely adapted in Texas.  We will also try ‘Kiowa,’ a recent thorned blackberry release from the University of Arkansas.  Dr. McEachern noted on Neil Sperry’s radio show that ‘Kiowa’ was extremely vigorous and productive.

Our thornless blackberries, ‘Natchez’ and ‘Ouachita’ also come from the University of Arkansas.  They are known for their firm sweet fruit.

You would have thought growing grapes in Texas was easy.  After all, almost half of all grape species are native to Texas.  Native grapes are a cinch.  Wine grapes are another story.  Pierce’s disease and cotton root rot are some of the conditions that limit choices of grape varieties.  Womack Nursery, where we purchased our grapes, suggests ‘Champanel’ for prairie or blackland soils.  It has large black grapes that make a loose bunch, great for making jelly.

In addition to ‘Champanel,’ we decided to try ‘Carlos Muscadine,’ a grape variety used to make white wine.  Muscadines are the most disease-resistant grapes.

“If you only have one fruit tree, this should be it,” Dr. McEachern advised, when interviewed by Neil Sperry.  He was suggesting the ‘Orient’ pear, a variety that Jim picked for our orchard.  With pears—unlike fussy plums and peaches—the less you prune and fertilize, the more pears you get.  (More tree growth from fertilizer does not equal more fruit.)  We also picked a ‘Warren’ pear, since pears are self-unfruitful and you must have two varieties for good production.

Ana really wanted an apple in the orchard.  We realized at the last minute that both pears and apples need pollinators. Pears are much more disease resistant than apples, so the space in the orchard went to pears.

Judy and I looked at several area nurseries for fruit trees, but couldn’t find a place that had everything we wanted in stock.  One nursery carried the ‘Redskin’ peach, for example, but it was grafted on East Texas rootstock, rather than the Halford stock for alkaline soils.

The only solution was for husband Mike and I to have a road trip to tiny De Leon and Womack Nursery, “Your Texas source for fruit and pecan trees since 1937.”

Fruit Trees at Womack Nursery

Fruit Trees at Womack Nursery

Womack Nursery is often named as the premiere source for pecans and fruit trees in Texas by fruit and nut experts.  Traveling down two-lane Highway 6 between DeLeon and Gorman, you see a series of sheds and a small office.  The parking lot is filled with pickups—all white—as crews assembled orders.  Thousands of fruit trees, pecans, grapes, and berries were tucked in marked rows of sand.  Large boxes waited to be filled with trees and shipped to customers all over Texas.

In a few minutes, our order was packed in damp hay, wrapped in brown paper and plastic, and tightly tied, ready for the trip back to Dallas.

We weren’t quite ready for the big city lights, however.  Some of the best barbecue on the planet waited for us in Stephenville on our way home.

 

Elizabeth

Pictures by Starla and Elizabeth

More about blackberries here.

 

 

 

 

 

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