The old man of decades past left us with a luscious grape vine that creeps across the yard, a little more every day. The first tiny bundles of grapes appeared a couple of weeks ago. They’re no bigger than pinheads now, but if last year gives us any indication, those grapes will ooze with sweet juice in another six weeks or so.
I love grape leaves. I got all excited by the prospects of cooking with these leaves, which grow of their own accord with little help from us. So I started poking around for grape leaf recipes and came across Leila Abu-Saba of Dove’s Eye View. I couldn’t resist her baked mushrooms in grape leaves. I lodged the recipe in the back of my brain and knew I had to try this when I had enough young leaves to gather. I played around with the recipe a little (I always feel compelled to do so), and here’s the result:
Baked Grape Leaves with Mushrooms and Rosemary (inspired by Elizabeth David’s recipe, via Leila Abu-Saba)
Young grape leaves, enough to make two layers in a casserole dish*
Mushrooms, your choice, sliced
2 strips bacon
2 sprigs fresh rosemary, dipped in boiling water to release their oils
Lots of garlic, minced
Drizzle of balsamic vinegar (white or red)
Salt and pepper to taste
Grated Pecorino or similar cheese
*Use young, tender leaves and remove their stems. Older leaves become too tough.
Blanch the leaves for 2 minutes, then drain and set aside. Fry the bacon, let cool, then crumble and set aside.
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Line your baking pan or casserole dish with a layer of leaves (choose your dish size depending on how many leaves you have). The leaves will hold their strength in cooking; you might want to chop them for easier eating.
Place a layer of sliced mushrooms atop grape leaves. Add garlic, rosemary and bacon crumbles, salt and pepper, then drizzle with olive oil and a touch of vinegar. Top with another layer of grape leaves.
Cover the dish with foil and bake until mushrooms are tender. Remove foil, top with grated cheese and return to oven until cheese is melted and crispy.