Every year when the dog days of summer are nearly upon us, the Greenmarkets are burgeoning with tender lettuces, fragrant stone fruits, unusual melons, and crisp summer squashes. We gear up with our reusable shopping bags and sunglasses, prepared for our trek to Union Square and its wagon circle of pointy white tents. Through the urban sun-powered oven, we slowly make our way from stand to stand, dodging the dog walkers, double wide strollers, and the absentminded passersby. Despite the apparent beauty of farm fresh local produce that constantly provides me inspiration, sometimes I find myself drawn like a moth to fluorescent lighting to the perfectly air-conditioned aisles of Fairway on the Upper West Side. I find myself crossing figs off of the
theoretical shopping list. Most recently, the reach-in upstairs provided me with a pint of the brown turkey variety. With skin the color of aubergine and chartreuse-tinged earth, the perfectly ripened figs have a musky sweet aroma and a slight yield to the touch. Once sliced in half, the sparkle of tiny seeds is surrounded by succulent rosy-hued flesh.
Marinated briefly in red wine with toasted cumin and coriander, I grilled the figs before wrapping them inside grape leaves with an astonishingly tasty spring onion and rosemary rice pilaf. Not to skimp on using the grill when it’s been taken out of its storage location, I grilled the completed stuffed grape leaves. I devoured most of this recipe by myself and without regret, ignoring the rest of what I had prepared for dinner for the evening. Not to sound totally audacious, but these grape leaves were some of the best things I have ever tasted. Please, I beg of you, enjoy them!
Grilled Grape Leaves Stuffed with Marinated Figs and Spring Onion Rosemary Rice Pilaf
First, put 1 c jade rice on to cook with 2 c vegetable stock, then prepare the remaining components.
For the marinated figs:
- 1 T whole cumin seed
- 1 T whole coriander seed
- 8 fresh figs, stem trimmed and cut in half
- 1 c red wine (I used Cabernet Sauvignon)
- 2 T extra virgin olive oil
- Celtic sea salt, to taste
- Freshly ground pepper, to taste
Heat a dry skillet over medium-low, then gently toast the cumin and coriander seeds. Stir constantly and remove from heat when fragrant, no more than one minute. Add the toasted seeds to a coffee or spice grinder. In a bowl, sprinkle the ground spices, salt, and pepper over the fig halves, then cover with red wine and olive oil. Allow to marinate for 30 minutes to 1 hour, but whatever you do, do not let them sit in the wine overnight. If using an indoor grill, preheat it. Meanwhile, make the rice pilaf below. When the grill is ready, place each fig cut side down on the grill until marks appear. With my grill, this was about two minutes. Set aside to cool enough to handle.
Spring Onion Rosemary Rice Pilaf
- 3 c cooked jade rice
- 2 T regular extra virgin olive oil plus an additional 2 T of a finishing extra virgin olive oil (something amazingly fruity)
- 1 very large spring onion bulb, small dice (about 1 c)
- 2 T fresh rosemary leaves, finely minced
- 1/2 tsp Celtic sea salt, to taste (enough salt to make the pilaf highly addictive)
In a skillet over medium, heat 2 T of the olive oil, then sauté the spring onions until translucent, about 3-4 minutes. Add the rosemary for another 2 minutes, then remove from heat. In a mixing bowl, combine all of the ingredients, including and especially the finishing oil.
Now, get yourself another bowl, place a hunk of stuck together grape leaves in it, then cover with water. It should be easier to pull them apart now. Find the ones that are as whole as possible and arrange the desired number on your cutting board. Place one heaping tablespoon of the rice mixture in the center of each grape leaf, cut the fig pieces in half, then place the quarter fig on top.
Roll up the sides as if you were making a burrito. Thusly:
Holding the bottom edges and using your fingers to keep everything in place, roll the grape leaf tightly until it resembles this:
As you can tell from the picture, you are going to put the whole dolma package onto the grill until marks appear. For me, this was another 2-3 minutes. Set aside to cool slightly, then ENJOY!
Notes: If you aren’t planning to enjoy all 32 dolmas immediately, go ahead and wrap them all to store. You can do the final grilling as needed rather than having to set up the grape leaf assembly line a second time.