Man, I am getting in a lot of blog posts this week! I guess there is just so much good stuff going on in the food blogoshpere that I want to support and be a part of. Sometimes, I get so backed up with other food related posts that I wait until the last minute to get my entry in for a Foodie Event. I wish I had time to do them all! I just love the creativity in this community! Food Bloggers ROCK!

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Which leads me exactly to this post and this Foodie Event which is called Eat To The Beat and is the brainchild of my friend
Elly from Elly Says Opa! Elly says she was inspired to create this event because her love of music is about as big as her love for food! I completely concur. I have always believed that my life would be so much better if it had a soundtrack. So since I have started working from home, I can listen to music all day long and it just makes my life so complete. I can’t imagine cooking without music, dinner parties or meals without some kind of music playing the the background. So in a way, I have created a soundtrack for myself!

Press Play:

As you all who are regular readers of this blog know, I do bellydancing and I love it. Due to this fact, much of my music collection is what we call in this house “bellydancing music”. If the music hails from the Middle East, North Africa, Turkey or any of the places in between it is referred to as such.

And as all of you know who read this blog, I love all the foods from those regions as well…coincidence? Most likely not.

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So this gets me to the meat of this post. We were having friends over for dinner last week, and I wanted to create a fun atmosphere – so we did small plates-  meze, antipasti, tapas, whatever you want to call it. I was really getting into all the dolmas or stuffed grape leaves people were making in the weeks leading up to it.  So I decided to combine Peter’s from Kalofagas and Mag’s from Hommus w/ Tabbouli to make my own version. I also made the Labneh from Mag’s blog as well, which is a soft Lebanese yogurt cheese, plus I re-created the Middle Eastern Meatballs with Orzo I had made last year. However, this time I made my own meatballs with the leftover ground meat from the gyros the week before. I just added and egg and some bread crumbs and baked the meatballs in the oven at 400 F for about 25 minutes. The meal was a huge hit and we had a great evening.

I chose this song, Desert Rose, click here to see the original video, the partnership of Sting and Cheb Mami, who is one of my most favorite artists and who is a very big star in his native Algeria and much of the “bellydancing music” world. His voice is unique and beautifully haunting. I also love Sting and give him major props for introducing Cheb’s beautiful voice to the western world through this song.

For more by Cheb Mami, click here.
To hear more of his music, click below.

Now for the recipes:

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Slow Cooked Dolmas (as opposed to the ones I usually make)

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Filling Ingredients:

1 big tomato or 2 medium ones diced
1 medium onion diced
1cup of arborio rice
½ cup fresh dill, chopped
½ cup fresh mint, chopped
Juice of 1 big lemon or 2 small
2 TBS tomato paste
1/2 tablespoon of salt
1/2 cup of olive oil (or a bit more)
60 grape leaves
2 cups veggie stock

Ingredients for Peter’s Avgolemeno Sauce
2 eggs
juice of half a lemon
2 Tbsp. Flour

METHOD:

Prepare the rice according to package directions, but leave off 10 minutes, so the rice is not fully cooked. Set aide to cool. In the meantime prepare the grape leaves. Peter had some great direction on that:

1. Prepare an ice water bath and set aside.
2. To prepare grape leaves, bring a medium pot of water to a rolling boil over high heat, add grape leaves, and cook for 5 to 10 minutes (depending upon the size of the leaves) or until leaves are tender but still hold their shape.
3. Remove grape leaves from the water and submerge them in the ice water bath. Allow the leaves to cool for 5 minutes and then strain.
4. Using a paring knife, remove the stem from each vine leaf and reserve.

Then onto Mag’s directions:

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1. Mix all the rest of the ingredients together with the rice and get ready to roll.

Rolling grape leaves:

Cut the stems if there’s any and start adding the filling in the middle of the leaf, then fold the sides and roll while pressing a bit to let the juice out and also to make it a bit tight so it doesn’t fall apart. (just like spring rolls).

Then back to Peter:

Place your Dolmadaki into a casserole dish and fill your casserole with Dolmadakia, side by side until the the bottom is completely covered. Continue layering the Dolmadakia until the casserole is filled with your parcels. Pour the stock into the casserole and put the lid on the casserole (or cover) and place into a preheated 375F oven and cook for 90 minutes.

For the Avgolemeno

1. In a large bowl, beat eggs and flour with a fork or a whisk until they begin to get foamy, about 3 minutes.
2. Add lemon juice in a steady stream, and continue beating for an additional minute.
3. Add the hot cooking liquid (one ladle at a time) from the dolmathes, and beat for 1 minute more.
4. Pour some sauce back into the casserole with the dolmathes and the rest into another medium pot.
5. Stirring constantly, heat sauce over low heat for about 3 minutes (do not let it come to a boil. Adjust seasoning with salt.
6. Pour over the warm Dolmadakia or serve on the side.

(NOW PETER: I had some issues with the avgolemeno – when I poured some on the casserole, it cooked the egg and made like a grape leaf/ egg casserole…what did I do wrong?????)

Labneh (Lebanese soft yogurt cheese)

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INGREDIENTS:

1 cup plain Greek style yogurt
teaspoon of salt
olive oil
cheese cloth
za’atar

METHOD:

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Mix yogurt with the salt, then empty the yogurt onto the cheese cloth, tie it and hang it over your sink overnight. You want the whey to drain all night.

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In the morning, empty the labneh from the cloth and serve with olive oil on top and a hefty sprinkling of za’atar. Serve with pita triangles.

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Speaking of Foodie Events, don’t forget to get your entries in for the Royal Foodie Joust! Voting begins this Saturday, March 1.