"A Touch of Spice" was chosen for this month's Food n Flix by Cam of Culinary Adventures with Camilla. You are welcome to join us by following these Guidelines, starting with watching this movie about Fanis and his family.
The movie starts with "Appetizers" taking place in Istanbul, where Fanis lives with his mother who is native to Istanbul, his father, who is from Greece and his maternal grandfather with whom he is very close. His grandfather owns a spice shop and develops in Fanis a love of gastronomy and astronomy using the smell, taste and texture of spices in the lessons he gives. You see many people walk through his doors, all of whom have a lasting impression on Fanis.
The movie moves onto the "Main Course" with Fanis and his family being deported back to Greece as there is now dissension between the two countries. Fanis' beloved grandfather remains behind with the promise to visit but the reminder to look at the sky each night should his visit be delayed. Fanis becomes so engrossed with his cooking and spices that his family resorts to calling in a priest for an exorcism and locks him out of the kitchen. Fanis' responds to this by living in the bathroom for two years. So, yes there is some beautiful humor in this film as well.
The movie finishes with "Desserts" which finds Fanis back in Istanbul with his grandfather and his first love. Hence we finish with the beauty of relationships that hold both joy and sadness.
I quit taking food notes during the first 5 minutes of the film. There was way too much food to ever keep track of. There was food being served, eaten, discussed, made and shared in each and every scene.
Dolmas (stuffed vegetable dishes) were everywhere. Stuffed tomatoes, stuffed peppers, stuffed eggplant and the dish I finally decided to make, stuffed grape leaves.
I love stuffed grape leaves. Our son in law, Pierre, is from this region and his mom makes the best stuffed grape leaves ever. I requested her recipe and she was kind enough to share it. Like most cooks who are sharing a traditional food from their childhood, it was a loose translation. It had all the ingredients but no measurements. Those of you who are cooks, understand this dilemma well. Those dishes that we learned from our Moms and Grandmas that have some of this, some of that, a pinch of this, a dash of that....and time measurements....forget about it. How long to cook it? Until it is fork tender, of course.
So I turned to a gorgeous cookbook, written by Debbie Matenopoulas called "It's all Greek to Me". Debbie has taken the recipes handed down by her family and has written instructions that any home cook can follow. Her recipe for Domathes Gyalantzi had all the same ingredients as the one from Pierre's mom so I combined the two recipes and was pretty pleased with the results.
Stuffed Grape Leaves
adapted from a recipe by Marlaina Kameland It's all Greek to Me by Debbie Matenopoulos
1 (16 oz) jar grape leaves
Good olive oil
1 lg. Vidalia onion, finely chopped
3/4 c. long grain white rice
1 1/4 c. water
1/4 c. chopped parsley
1 T. chopped dill
2 leaves of mint, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
juice of half a lemon
Remove the grape leaves from the jar and rinse thoroughly, separating the leaves while rinsing and placing them in a colander to dry.
Boil a large pot of water. Add the rinsed grape leaves and submerge in the boiling water. Cook for 3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon to a colander and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process. Set aside.
Heat 2 T. of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onions, season with salt and pepper, and cook for a few minutes, until translucent but not brown. Add the rice and cook, stirring constantly, until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the water, parsley, dill and mint. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until all liquid is absorbed and rice is tender. Set aside to cool.
Place a small amount of the rice mixture onto the bottom side of the grape leave (the veins are more pronounced on the underside of the leaf). Fold in the sides and roll into a neat little package. Continue until all the rice is used.
Place a layer of grape leaves in the bottom of a dutch oven. Add the stuffed grape leaves in an even layer, seam side down, stacking layers if necessary. Pour 1/2 c. of good olive oil over the rolls and then cover with a heat proof plate. Add enough water to cover the rolls and the plate, season with salt, pepper and the juice of half a lemon. Cover the dutch oven and cook over a medium low flame for 30-40 minutes. Carefully remove the plate, and use a slotted spoon to remove the stuffed grape leaves to a platter. Serve at room temperature or refrigerate and serve cold. Print Recipe