Some history: Was briefly independent from 1918 to 1920, then regained independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union
Location: Southwest Asia, a part (referenced in the Armenia post) in Europe
Area: 87,000 sq km, slightly smaller than Maine
Bordering nations: Armenia, Georgia, Iran, Russia, Turkey
Coastline: Technically landlocked, although they border the Caspian Sea
Elevation: Ranges from about 90 feet below sea level to 14,700 feet above
Population: 8.3 million, 91st in the world
Official language: Azeri
Unemployment rate: 0.9%, ranked 3rd in the world
Human Trafficking: Is on a watch-list for failure to take the appropriate measures to prevent human trafficking
Climate: Out of the 11 recognized climate zones in the world, Azerbaijan has 9
Azerbaijani cuisine: Influenced by the climates, they have an abundance of local crops
On first glance, I was a little worried about finding the right ingredients for Azerbaijan. I found a lot of recipes that called for ground mutton. As cool as the international grocery store is, I thought that might be a bit beyond their reach. The other option was grape leaves. The national dish, dolma, used them. I wasn't sure I would find them though. So I went on an adventure.
I finally found one that was specifically called out as being Azerbaijani.
There was also a soup recipe. I don't think it is actually Azerbaijani, but it sounded good.
Dolmas are basically meat and things wrapped in grape leaves and then cooked. I was a little worried about how long it would take me to do all of this stuff, and I was right. A little labor intensive.
|First, because they aren't fresh grape leaves, you have to wash them all off.|
|Recently washed grape leaf.|
|Next step, cut off the stem.|
|Then, if the grape leaf is "large," cut it in half. Unfortunately they didn't really give me an idea of what was large and what wasn't...|
|Pile o' grape leaves!|
|Rice, Onions, Beef, Cilantro, Dill, Pepper...I think that's it.|
|I then had to knead it all with my hands, which was an interesting sensation.|
|Asleep and adorable on his palace.|
|NCAA Football. Trying to bring Eastern Michigan up from the dregs of last place.|
|At least by this time Tesla wasn't on the trash can anymore.|
|This is where I was supposed to fit them all...all 80 of them.|
|Step one...hold grape leaf shiny-side down in left palm.|
|Step two: fill with a teaspoon or so of filling.|
|Step three, roll, fold, and finagle until you realize the leaf isn't big enough and you can't get it to stay closed anyway.|
|I'm glad I figured that part out.|
|Although it was still a little weird.|
|Kevin helped chop things!|
|Carrots are no match for our food processor.|
|LOT of veggies.|
|Which apparently got blurry on the stove...|
Apparently I don't like grape leaves.
This was a very unfortunate discovery to make. Seeing as that was the centerpoint of the meal, it made enjoying it very difficult. I think I only ate 3 or 4, some of which I just ate the stuffing out. It was very anti-climactic. I'm sure for people who like grape leaves, this could have been very good. Kevin was okay with it. He wasn't a huge fan but could actually eat it, unlike me.
The soup was decent, although I think the suggestion to use heavy cream would have made it much better. With what we used it was a little watery.
I was not too happy with this. Again, I don't think it was a problem with the recipe, just a personal taste thing. If anyone knows they like grape leaves, I really encourage them to try this and give me your opinion. I also wonder if it would have been better with fresh leaves, rather than ones that were sitting in preservatives for so long.
After the meal, we decided to get rid of the rest knowing we wouldn't eat them. This actually was a bad move, because we had people over for the Super Bowl the next day who said that they really like grape leaves. We should have kept some for them to try and give us their opinion. However, I did make Austrian potatos for them, which seemed to go over decently well.
Certainly not my best work. I think next time will be AWESOME though, and everyone should get really excited.
Besides, Tesla seemed to like the grape leaves. He started licking them.
|On a grape leaf hunt.|
Next time: The Bahamas