Thursday, April 29, 2010

Loving My Book Club

I finished my purple socks and now seem to be in a bit of the knitting doldrums. Our weather has still been a little chilly, at least in the  morning and evening, so I'm not adverse  to using wool as I sometimes am by now. I just need a little break I guess.

So, I've mostly been focusing on two of my other hobbies: reading and eating. Some friends from work and I formed a book club last year, and although we don't meet really regularly, we have thoroughly enjoyed every meeting we've had. I suggested our last book, which was Crescent by Diana Abu Jabar. I've read it several times and although I like the story itself, it's the food imagery that make me love it...and yes, I was drawn to it because of the knitted blue sweater  sleeve on the cover.
Crescent by Diana Abu-Jaber

The protagonist's is of Iraqi descent and is a cook in a Lebanese restaurant, so Crescent is full of references to humus, tabuleah, dolmas (stuffed grape leaves), and baklava. So, that is what the table in my dining room was full of this afternoon. I wish that I'd taken a picture of it because it was really a wonderful sight, but I do at least have a picture of the baklava that my friend, Janet, and I made yesterday.

Russ paid our baklava a very high compliment after tasting it today. Last summer we bought some baklava from an Iranian woman at a farmer's market in Nebraska. It was wonderful, just about melted in your mouth. I loved it so much that when we saw her at another farmer's market later that week, I had to go tell her how much we enjoyed her baklava even though we weren't buying any that day. When I told her that I had tried baklava numerous times and hers was by far the best that we'd ever tasted, she practically teared up and insisted that I take a free box of it. I tried to refuse, telling her that that wasn't why I'd told her that. She insisted though, and we eventually happily gave in. Writing this just now, made me wonder if she had a website, but all I could find was this blog post from a guy who obviously agrees with our assessment of her skills....back to Russ's comment. He said our baklava was about as good as that nice Iranian woman's!

Lucky for me, there were quite a few leftovers, and I was the recipient of most of them. I also helped make dolmades (pictured on the left side of my pic.) last week with my friend Nancy whose partner is of Greek heritage. If this recipe was any indication, he's an incredible cook. I've have dolmas out of jars from Trader Joe's, but eating freshly prepared dolmades can't even be compared to the cold, briney, slimey grape leaves out of a jar.
Sirine, the chef in Crescent makes the most delicious-sounding dolmas. I think she'd approve of these. This isn't exactly the recipe we used since the recipes we used is top secret, but Nancy assures me that this is very close to what we prepared.


1 lb. ground beef
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 cup white rice
1 egg
1 tbsp. butter, softened
1 tbsp. dried mint (we used fresh)
1/2 bunch parsley
3-4 tbsp. lemon juice

20 - 30 grape leaves (We're lucky enough to have a Middle Eastern market nearby where we can buy fresh ones, but we used some leaves from Nancy's concord grapes vines.

Knead all ingredient in a bowl. If the consistency is too hard, add a little water.

Boil grapes leaves until they are soft but not tender. Fresh leaves will only take a minute. Cool leaves. Fill leaves with rice mixture and roll "burrito-style."

In a large pot, melt 1/2 stick butter. Arrange rolled dolmades in pot and pour 3-4 cups of chicken or beef broth over dolmades, cover, and simmer for 2 hours.

Serve domades with avgolemono sauce:

Avgolemono Sauce


  • 2-3 eggs, separated
  • 1 tablespoon of water
  • juice of 2-3 lemons
  • broth from the dish being cooked (or hot beef or chicken broth or stock)


Beat the egg whites until foamy. Beat in egg yolks, water, lemon juice, and 2-3 spoonfuls of broth, beating (or whisking) continuously. Add the avgolemono sauce to the dish being cooked, stir, cover with a towel for 10 minutes, and serve.


Anonymous said...

The pics are the purple version of "MY" socks...they are lovely. And the food pics and descriptions sound divine. Your blog always makes me smile (and typically makes me hungry too ;) xoxo

Thimbleanna said...

But enough about grape leaves! They're green (aka healthy.) Let's move on to the Really important stuff.

The Baklava.

I LOVE Baklava. Never made it though. Can we beg and plead for a Baklava making post from you. With recipe? Or is it top secret too? You know us -- your VERY closest invisible friends. WE can all keep a secret {turns to the crowd} Can't we Girls???

They're cheering YES!!!

Beate said...

Mmmmmmmm looks realy good.
I am in a reading mood as well at the moment. Love when it hits me, because it takes me away on a journey I don´t know where it´s going.

Hege said...

The baklava looks so good!!

Tracy said...

Soooo DELICIOUS...the socks and the baklava! ;o) I just love baklav, but I have never made it before myself. I should give it a go! Happy Days ((HUGS))

Caffeine Girl said...

Aren't book groups awesome? I love mine.

The food looks amazing. It would never occur to me to try Baklava. It just looks so hard!

Wool Winder said...

Now I'm hungry for Baklava.

JayJay said...

You're making me hungry with all the talk/photos of food! ;) I love the purple socks too. I've lost my knitting mojo as well, but I'm not sure why. Perhaps my schedule is just too crazy at this point in the school year.