Herby Quinoa & Hake Dolmades with Sultanas and Pine nuts
Mediterranean Holiday Series –5. Mikrolimano, Athens
- Mikrolimano piraeus. Image via Athens.com
About 15 kilometers from the centre of Athens, lies the Piraeus, or port and Mikrolimano, the second largest marina in the area. Here you find yachts and recreational boats, fishermen and a strip of seafood restaurants, loved by locals and visitors.
I was brought here by super food blogging trio Pandespani where we enjoyed a wonderful afternoon of food and conversation. Eating Greek seafood with Greeks is an incomparable experience. And yes, I’d like more ouzo on ice, please.
The Piraeus is worth venturing out of Athens for, and if I had more time I’d have liked to spend the afternoon exploring and taking pictures – fishermen casting rods, families coming out for lunch, waiters in starched whites, the fleet of yachts and little fishing boats bobbing on the blue waters.
- image Wikicommons
My recipe for dolmades, the Greek and Turkish rice stuffed vine leaf snack, is not traditional at all. In fact it breaks a few rules and after all the taste tests, I can confirm it tastes scrumptious. If you are a fan of the classics, you may need to stand back for this one.
Instead of rice, I use quinoa - the health carb, high in protein that has had the world in a frenzy over the last few years. Also, quinoa cooks far quicker than rice and has a lovely, slightly crunchy texture that I enjoy. Use it as a starch, in salads and stuffings - it is really versatile.
Sultanas are not as sweet as you may think in this recipe, they give a needed contrast and lose some of the sweetness during the cooking process. The herbs are essential to add freshness. In fact you can add a little more after the quinoa has cooked and cooled. Toasted pine nuts are a wonderful Mediterranean ingredient, they add contrast and a buttery nuttiness. Lemon zest adds sprite and white fish is the perfect ingredient for summer.
Usually dolmades are cooked in a pot, covered in a lemony water for 40 minutes or longer, until the water evaporates. Using cooked quinoa and a delicate fish would not work with that long cooking time, also it would strip the seasoned quinoa of all that lovely flavour. So, I experimented with the less agressive steaming method. The leaves do not turn to mush this way, and I prefer the slight bite to them. Al dente vine leaves! Do use the old fashioned method, if you prefer.
I used a bamboo steamer, suspended over a wok of simmering water, allowing the water to get to a slight roll and topping it up as needed. 25-30 minutes is long for a little fish strip, but the leaves need the time to soften; the fish still has a lovely texture as the steaming is gentle.
I used a double steamer and rotated the layers halfway through the cooking (saves time), you can do it this way or one at a time, as per my method below.
When the dolmades are ready, brush with olive oil and serve with tzatziki.
This post forms part of the series of recipes I am preparing for Mediterranean Delicacies. It is a Food and the Fabulous Endorsed project and I will be remunerated for it.