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ground lamb ideas?

I am surprised that no one has mentioned Dolmades (various names and spellings): stuffed grape leaves. With my apologies in advance should I have missed a reply (or more). This recipes makes about 80.


3 cups rice, raw, rinsed well and drained
2 cups tomatoes, chopped, canned or fresh
2 tablespoons onion, chopped
1 cup dill leaves and young stems, fresh, chopped
1 cup celery leaves, chopped (celery stalks are fine)
½ pound lamb, ground
¼ cup cooking oil, olive or corn (I often use grape)
2 teaspoons paprika (when I stick to this basic recipe, I like to use Basque or Spanish smoked paprika
1 tablespoon lemon juice


Reserving the grape leaves, mix the other ingredients together with 2 tablespoons of the oil. Take 2 heaping tablespoons of the stuffing and put it in the center of each grape leaf. Roll it into a small bundle about 2 inches in long and ¾ inch thick. Pack the leaves tightly in layers in a pan. Add 2 tablespoons of oil to the pan and pour in 2 to 3 cups hot water. Just enough to cover the leaf bundles. Cover the leaves with a ceramic plate to hold them under the water. Bring to a boil over moderate heat and cover the pan. Cook over low heat for 1 hour. Add another ½ cup water should it evaporate too quickly
Serve at room or warm temperature.


Many cooks prefer a 1/2 and 1/2 mix of lamb and hamburger.

The traditional dish calls for celery leaves; but, the stalks or a combination work fine.

A traditional Greek seasoning goes well with this dish. Try a blend of 1 1/2 teaspoons oregano, dried; 1 teaspoon each mint, thyme; 1/2 teaspoon each of basil and marjoram, dried, and onion, minced; and, 1/4 teaspoon garlic, minced. The garlic and onion can be either fresh or dried. This recipe assumes dried for everything (for storage); however, dried basil tastes to me like hay. Fresh is far better. I have used some of my pesto cubes that I generally keep handy in the freezer. The results were great!

Alternatively, some cooks (or cook moods) cannot resist adding a tablespoon of their curry or garam masala powder. Which is quite in keeping with –istani cuisine. This particular version hails from Kurdistan.

Grape leaves. This calls for fresh; however, pickled leaves are excellent. Right now (May), I am knee deep in fresh wine grape leaves; so, fresh it is! At the same time, I am already well along in pickling my own for later use. I never have quite enough to get through our long, barren winters. Good technique: make them like cigars. Two layers of grape leaves laid out in opposing directions. Fill and roll with one leaf; then, re-roll with a second. Each grape leaf's midrib may have to be cut off to facilitate rolling. Stick with very young leaves if you can (or pickled ones).

May 11, 2010
Jack King in Home Cooking

How is the hospital food where you live?

I comment with apologies that I have not as yet read the entire collection of replies. It is late this morning; and, I really need to run. To the hospital! I published a small piece last March comparing food quality and service at five different area hospitals. While there were some interesting variations, I would not recommend any of them for their food. And, that is to underscore your comment regarding "in-patient" (bed or room) service versus one or more in-house cafeterias/restaurants. The latter have made great strides in recent years; but, alas, I see little of this trickling up to patient rooms. Even when a meal or dish begins the journey with a promising start, the half hour to well over one hour (I have clocked suppers as taking more than two and one half hours to be delivered) from plating to patient leaves almost everything to be desired. Foods originally hot are cold. Cold foods are room temperature. And, some items have long lost any integrity. There is no excuse for this seeming indifference and ineptitude. Yet, that seems to be the standard here. I think that we are beginning to mimic much of Asia; where patients receive little or no attention, only haphazard medication or other treatment, and no food service unless they have a trusted family member of friend standing right there to demand service. In my extended stay last February, I went from 200 to 120 pounds; and, I emerged looking like a walking skeleton. I could have been a good stand-in for a Holocaust movie.

Oct 30, 2009
Jack King in General Topics

Mexican Oregano

Sigh. The Chowhound title is very misleading. Mexican oregano is Mexican. In part. Whether or not it should be called oregano is the real question. But, yes, we botanists do call it oregano; as that is the name used locally (origano). Mexican oregano is from the species Lippia graveolens, in the verbenaceae or verbena family. Quite close to the mint family, Lamiaceae or Labiatae, of the Greek or Mediterranean oregano. In fact, the two families are pretty artificial; carry-overs from the olden times when families were often divided into tropical and temperate types. Commercial "Mexican" oregano sold in the USA has long been mostly Lippia micromera, Lippia oreganioides or from other species found in Venezuela. There, it can form whole woodlands in the tropical desert (arid zones) near the coast. The Zonas Aridas de la Costa. Yes. Woodlands. It is a large bush to small tree. When there is an understory (ground cover), it is often cactus.

American oregano has a stronger flavor than European forms; and, the leaves have a distinct, sculpted edge ("toothed"). So, it is easy to identify even in a bottle or package. I find both kinds to be good; choosing one or the other either for its authenticity (say, Mediterranean dishes versus New World); or, for the particular flavor. Many Mediterranean dishes have American counterparts; in which I use the likes of European oregano, olives and olive oil for the former; and, Lippia, mixed fruits and manteca (lard) or a light sesame oil (Venezuela's culinary standard) for the latter. Lots of opportunity here for play!

Oct 30, 2009
Jack King in General Topics