April 6, 2013 § 2 Comments
We are lucky to have a Concord grapevine out in our garden that our landlords planted years and years ago. It didn’t have such a great year for grapes last year because of an infection, but a grapevine sure does produce a lot of leaves. And apparently it is good for grape vines to cut them back… way back… multiple times. I kept pretty much anything that didn’t seem gigantic and tough. So, we wound up with lots and lots of grape leaves. (P.S. the infection only affects the fruit, not the leaves, but thank you for your concern) We made stuffed grape leaves (dolmades) which were frankly amazing – I had never much liked most store bought ones, but fresh homemade ones completely changed my mind.
All that blanching and shocking and stuffing and rolling took care of maybe a fifth of our grape leaves. So I made my own water bath canned preserved grape leaves. But there were still more leaves. So I preserved them but skipped the canning and just kept them in the fridge. But there were more leaves. So I rolled them up in neat bundles and carefully placed them in the freezer. Still more leaves. So I wadded them up in a ziploc bag and shoved them in the back of the freezer until now. Heh.
Now, I’m just mad at myself for not trying this sooner. Ten times easier than making dolmades and with a delicious flavor that is a cross between dolmades and avgolemono soup:
Grape Leaf Soup
- olive oil
- one onion, coarsely chopped
- 4-5 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
- 3T preserved lemon – peel only, sliced or coarsely chopped – I did not rinse mine off
- two bay leaves, in a muslin spice bag if you have one
- one pound grape leaves, fresh or frozen or canned, blanched and shocked at some point in their lives
- 10 cups of broth – I used somewhat dilute chicken broth
- optional additions: browned ground meat, cooked rice, lightly poached egg
Spoiler alert: you will need a blender, preferably an immersion blender.
- Lightly brown the onion in the olive oil over medium heat. When the onions become translucent, add the garlic and preserved lemon. Make sure to smell at this point.
- When the garlic is lightly browned, add the bay leaves, grape leaves, and broth.
- Bring the soup to a boil over high heat then reduce to a simmer. Allow to simmer until the leaves are tender, which will depend on how young they were. I just let mine simmer for about an hour because that is what I always do with soup but I bet you could get away with much less.
- Fish out the bay leaves if you can find them – the spice bag makes this easier.
- Puree with your immersion blender, or transfer carefully to a regular blender, until the soup is uniform. Adjust the amount of water to get the texture you like. After you adjust the water, adjust the salt as needed (remember, your preserved lemons will add salt, so you may not need any more).
- At this point, you have a nice light springy/summery veggie soup. To make it a meal, add some browned ground beef or lamb, some cooked rice, and/or a poached egg (highly recommended!) You could always cook the meat or rice in the same pot with the soup but then they would get blended along with the rest of the soup so it would wind up as a thicker puree rather than a broth with discrete pieces of other things, it just depends on which texture you prefer.
Beverage recommendation: the Grecian Spring (yes, I’m making this up)
- 1.5 oz date-infused vodka
- 0.5 oz dry vermouth
- 1-2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
Shake with ice and strain into chilled glass.
This is a simple martini variation with the date and anise flavors I associate with Greece, made from what I happened to have in my bar. I’m sure you could use ouzo or another anise-flavored liqueur instead of or in addition to the Peychaud’s. Let me know what you come up with.
For date-infused vodka: Slice or coarsely chop some dates, a few ounces left over from making Christmas cookies for instance. In a resealable glass container, add vodka to cover the dates. Allow to infuse in a cool place out of direct sunlight. Mine sat for about five days, but taste yours periodically. When it’s done to your liking, strain through a coffee filter (I used a gold filter) lined with a paper towel and store in a clean sealable container. That’s it!