Sunday, April 17, 2011

Easter Beltane?

As you know, I love a good holiday.  I love them so much I will gladly celebrate secular versions of any of the major religious observances.  Easter is an interesting problem this year.  Normally, it is so much closer to the Spring Equinox.  Since the typical symbols of Easter are actually more appropriate for the Spring Equinox it was always such an easy fit.  But this year, with Easter on April 24th, it is actually much closer to Beltane. I have written about Persephone's Beltane before.

I decided with Easter and Beltane just around the corner, it was time again to consult the Hellenic Cuisine Cookbook and find and appropriate offering for the holiday feast. 

The cookbook conveniently references May Day or Protomayia in Greek.  They suggest that it is "traditionally a day for an outing for which we suggest the following menu:"

Lamb Cooked in Foil
Pastitsio (Baked Macaroni)
Dolmathes (Stuffed Grape Leaves)
Vegetable Platter
Greek Cheese Pie
Greek Bread
Coffee or Cool Drinks
Pasta Flora
Fresh Fruit

In only the way that this cookbook can do, it doesn't provide any information on some of these recipes.  I couldn't find the "Pasta Flora" at all so I had to google it. It also seems that Pastitsio is a staple and since it is one of my favorites I have posted the recipe here before.  I love the lushness of this menu, too.  The foods seem so sensual and rich, which is perfect.  I decided to share a Dolmathes recipe here, which not only would honor Persephone this Beltane but also her brother, Dionysos who embodies much of what Beltane means. 

And, true to form, the cookbook doesn't offer just a regular Dolmathes recipe.  But I did fine one titled "Vine Leaves Stuffed With Rice".  I present it to you unedited for your reading and cooking pleasure.  I can never get enough of the way these old recipes are written even if it means I go "huh?" when I try to cook one. 

50 Vine Leaves, Fresh or Canned
2 cups Rice
3 Medium Onions, Chopped
1.5 cups olive oil
1 lemon
1 cup chopped parsley
2 tablespoons pignolia nuts (pine nuts) and currants (optional)
Salt and Pepper to Taste

Prepare as follows: fry the chopped onions in oil until golden brown.  Add the washed rice and rest of ingredients and about 1 cup of water.  Cover and let simmer for a few minutes.  Let mixture cool.  Rinse and drain vine leaves.  Fill each leaf carefully, using one large or two small leaves for each dolma, making sure that the shiny side of the leaves remain on outside.  A teaspoon of the filling is sufficient and do not roll too tightly to allow room for rice to expand.  Place a few coarse leaves on bottom of pot, and arrange domathes side by side and layer upon layer until all leaves and filling are used.  Add three cups of water, a little salt, oil and the juice of one lemon.  Cover with a heavy plate and let simmer for 40-45 minutes or until the rice is cooked.  Serve cold. 

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