Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Giving Vine

It gave me shade.
It gave me fruit.
It gave me something to talk about.
And still! My grape vines kept on giving!

In this world there are three types of plants: 1) The Takers—like Palm Trees and Venus Flytraps; 2) The Givers—like Citrus Trees and Fig Trees; and 3) The Super-Givers like Grape Vines and the Tree that Money Grows On. As a kid I read that book The Giving Tree by the talented Shel Silverstein, which tells the story of how an apple tree gave a boy apples to eat, branches to swing on, wood to sell and a stump to sit on. The apple tree did everything for this kid including letting the kid chop down the tree—his only friend!—to hawk the tree’s dead body to give the kid—now a man—money. Note to the kid/man: That tree was much nicer to you than you were to it. Second Note to the kid/man: If you have to cut down your friend for cash, clearly you haven’t managed your life finances well. Third Note to the kid/man: If you love something let it go, don’t chop it down!

Like this giving tree, my grape vines kept on giving. However unlike the kid, I tried to be respectful of my vines. Yes, my grape vines provided a shady spot under their leaves, offered me delicious fruit and gave me serious bragging rights. But in my summer of Greek cooking, they also presented me with stuffed grape leaves.

CORRECTION: It provided so many leaves I harvested some of them to make stuffed grape leaves.

I love stuffed grape leaves—the rice filling with dill and parsley, the rich extra virgin olive oil and the “This is good food!” taste! So I consulted my Greek cookbook of the summer, It's All Greek to Me by Debbie Matenopoulos, and followed her recipe. Other stuffed grape leaf recipes I had seen only explained how to make them with store-bought grape leaves. But Debbie’s recipe explained how to make them with your own vines, just like her family has done. And this recipe was a winner!

First I trimmed some leaves that were far from the main plant’s canes. Them I boiled the leaves for three minutes then let them sit in cold water.

I made the rice filling with dill, parsley and beef, wrapped the grape leaves around the rice filling and snuggled them into a pan. All lined up like that they looked like little pillows of gastronomical delights.

I filled the pan with olive oil and cooked them. Then I ate them! VoilĂ ! They were delicious! Even Mr. Wonderful was a fan. In fact he would like me to make more stuffed grape leaves, which I still can because unlike the kid/man and his giving tree, I still have many, many more leaves to harvest because I didn’t chop down my Giving Grape Vines.

Here’s to homemade Stuffed Grape Leaves! Here's to my Grape Vines! And here's to high hopes that they keep on giving!

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