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Women share memories of Ramadan

By Suzanne Martinson, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Fasting during Ramadan is not for every Muslim.

Martha Rial, Post-Gazette
Belkis Karaman encourages her young friend Nur Irene, 4, of McCandless to finish her soup while their families, originally from Turkey, break the fast together at Karaman's apartment in Green Tree.
Click photo for larger image.

The 30-day (sometimes 29) observance, when the faithful abstain from food, drink, sex and other worldly pleasures, is not required of pregnant or nursing women, or people who are ill. Travelers or women who are menstruating also do not have to fast, although they are supposed to make up the days.

In addition to fasting, smoking is not permitted, and eating pork and drinking alcoholic beverages are always forbidden.

Muslims pray at least five times each day during Ramadan, the holiest month for 1.3 billion Muslims worldwide.

Today, 10 women share family recipes and talk about how they observed Ramadan in their homelands.

On Tuesday, they will celebrate Eid, the festive holiday that breaks this year's fast. And food never tastes better than when you're hungry.

Special thanks to our Ross neighbors, Pam Mayer, Linda Mitzel and Elaine Gordon, who helped us test and taste recipes.


TURKEY: Belkis Karaman

In Istanbul, women embroider handkerchiefs and fill them with money and gifts for the small children. Belkis Karaman's family often had 13 or 14 people over to break the day's fast, and inviting guests over is a tradition she continues today.

The Green Tree resident recalls how the streets of Istanbul filled with people. Stores often remained open until midnight selling sweets. Turkish restaurants prepared special meals, and Muslims enjoyed Ottoman cuisine, which she says is "heavy, rich, very interesting."

Belkis, a librarian who has lived in the United States for four years, prepares for Ramadan by baking desserts and making strawberry, peach, apple, orange and apricot jams for their meals before daybreak. Special cookies from her hometown of Kilis are filled with pistachios, sugar and spices and shaped in a wooden press.

Belkis taught Turkish cooking in Minnesota and cooks other cuisines, too. "I love Italian, Mexican, French, Indian."

Each morning she and husband Mahmut, who earned his Ph.D. at the University of Akron, eat hearty. He is a research scientist at Seagate Technology, and fasting may even help his work. "I know from my husband, he feels more energized and creative."

Her brother-in-law in Minnesota will join them for Eid and Thanksgiving.

In observance of her religion, she covers her head, something not everyone understands. "They say, 'Don't you know it's not Halloween?'"

Bread Pudding

Sliced Rusk bread is available at Stamoolis in the Strip and Turkish specialty stores.

10 slices Rusk bread

For syrup:

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups water

For pudding:

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 1 cup flour
  • 4 cups milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon lemon extract
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups whipping cream,whipped and sweetened
  • Coconut for garnish (ground pistachios are also good and add color)
  • Place bread slices in a single layer in a 9-by-12-inch casserole.

To prepare syrup: Boil water and sugar for 10 minutes and pour on the bread while hot.

To make pudding: Melt butter in a saucepan, and add flour; stir on medium heat for 4 minutes. Add milk, vanilla, lemon extract and sugar; stir well until thickened. Beat pudding in a food processor for 10 minutes. Pour pudding on the top of bread.

Wait until cool, then spread whipped cream on the top of the pudding and decorate with coconut.

Chill bread pudding in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.

Note: Belkis created this dish from a recipe for chicken pudding, making it into a sweet rather than a savory dish.

Potato Salad

  • 2 large potatoes, boiled, peeled and diced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion (cut into small wedges)
  • 1/2 bunch parsley (cut into very thin strips)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, and black pepper to taste
  • 1 or 2 bunches dill (cut very thinly)

Chill potatoes for several hours. In a large bowl, combine olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper, mixing well. Add remaining ingredients to the olive oil mix, and pour over the potatoes. Toss gently. Chill until ready to serve.

Tester's note: My Lutheran upbringing made me use small red potatoes. Fresh dill was unavailable in four local grocery stores, so I used McCormick dried dill.


UNITED STATES: Rashida Haqq

Rashida Haqq took a new name when she converted to Islam 28 years ago.

She and her husband, who owns Jamil's Global Village in East Liberty, have five children born into the Muslim faith, Imad, 19, Rafiq, 17, Rashaad, 16, Nurideen, 15, and Baiyinah, 18, at Hampton University in Virginia.

It takes Rashida about an hour each day to read one-thirtieth of the Quran. She's taking nursing refresher courses, so she juggles her reading around that.

"When I met my husband, he was already a Muslim. A Muslim woman has to marry a Muslim man," she says. Muslim men must marry a a practicing Christian, Jew or Muslim.

Her family arise at 4:30 a.m. and often eat, a compote of dried apricots, raisins, dates and apricot juice and then lie down before they pray at 6 a.m.

"You try to drink as much liquid as you can."

Her children started fasting gradually. "They would fast an hour, and say, 'Wooo!' Fasting helped them in their discipline."

During Ramadan, husband Jamil closes his store early so he can break the fast with his family. "People think Muslim food is only Middle Eastern, but it's not. Islamic food is from wherever you are -- African, African-American, German, Polish. Mine might be fried chicken and some greens, though mine wouldn't have ham hocks."

Asked if she has felt prejudice, Rashida laughs. "Its hard to tell, being black and Muslim. If we don't dialogue, we'll never get understanding."

Baked Sweet Potatoes and Apples

This would be a delightful addition to the Thanksgiving table, too.

  • 6 sweet potatoes
  • 4 apples (Granny Smith), cored and peeled
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons nutmeg
  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 cup water

Boil sweet potatoes first, then peel and slice into 13-by-9-inch glass dish. Peel apples and place in bowl of water with lemon to preserve color. Mix sliced apples into sweet potatoes, add all remaining ingredients.

Bake covered or uncovered in 375-degree oven for 30 minutes until caramelized and tender. (We baked covered for 30 minutes, then partially covered for 10 additional minutes.)

Tester's note: I accidentally used a whole stick of butter, but it didn't look like too much.


INDIA: Azra Mahmood

Azra Mahmood of Wexford has lived in the United States since 1983.

She and her husband, Arshad, a cardiologist in Butler, have two daughters, Deeba, 17, and Hina, 13, who attend Shady Side Academy.

"We always had a very positive feedback in all the schools," Azra says. "Even after 9/11, there was no backlash."

Originally from northern India, she says the kids fast, but it's not easy, as the older one plays field hockey and the younger one basketball. "If you're fasting and you want to play, the coaches know it will not be at the full intensity."

The homemaker says it was fun to try new dishes, such as the Palestinian and Indonesian foods, at the Islamic potluck. "I had some grape leaves that were good."

Her daughters customarily receive monetary and other gifts at Eid. "In the morning everybody prays together at the Islamic Center in Monroeville and has a big, huge meal, and in the evening we might go to a restaurant or a friend's house."

Chicken Khorma

  • 1 whole chicken, cut up in small pieces, skinned (2 1/2 pounds)
  • 1/2 cup fried onions
  • 3/4 cup plain yogurt
  • 2 teaspoons ginger paste (gingerroot peeled, chopped and crushed)
  • 2 teaspoons garlic paste (garlic cloves peeled, chopped and crushed)
  • 5 cloves
  • 4 cardamom seeds
  • 1 1/2 sticks cinnamon
  • 2 or 3 bay leaves
  • 1 heaping teaspoon coriander powder
  • 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 cup oil

Heat oil in 12-quart pan; add cloves, cardamom, cinnamon sticks and bay leaves. Immediately add chicken, ginger and garlic pastes, and cook uncovered on medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring constantly.

Add coriander powder, cayenne pepper and salt, and cook for another 10 minutes, uncovered. Puree fried onions and yogurt in blender or food processor with 1 cup water. Add to chicken. Cover and cook for 5 to 10 minutes until chicken is tender.


INDONESIA: Aniratna "Ani" Djuwita

Dates aren't readily available to break the fast in Indonesia, so Aniratna "Ani" Djuwita makes Kolak, a sweet fruit dish, created with yams, pandan leaves, jackfruit and attap fruit. Pumpkin, plantains and raisins can be added.

Ani works at the Children's Center of Pittsburgh in Oakland and was one of the few women at the potluck who is in Pittsburgh temporarily. She has four daughters, Dea, 13, and Dini, 11, who attend Frick International School; Lala, 7, a second-grader at Greenfield Elementary School; and Adik, 4, who attends Universal Academy of Pittsburgh, a Muslim school. The parents have lived in Pittsburgh twice, from 1987 to 1989, returning in 2000.

On Saturdays, Ani studies for her master's in education at Point Park College. When her children tell her that fasting is not that hard, she tells them, "This is cool in the wintertime with short days, but wait until Ramadan is in summertime in Indonesia."

Ani and husband Djamaludin, who is studying public policy at Pitt, have been married 17 years. Although many marriages are arranged in her country, theirs was not. "I didn't want to marry somebody I didn't know," she says.

She is determined to make these years a positive experience for her children. "I always tell them, you can pick whatever is good from America, choose the nice things, avoid the things against our religion. My kids' best friends are from other religions, only one of them Muslim, but Jewish, Christian -- you have to be nice to everybody."

Kolak Sari Rasa

Ingredients for this dish were purchased at the Asian Store in the Strip.

  • 3 yams
  • 100 grams Gula Jawa sugar or to taste
  • 1 cup sugar or to taste
  • 3 or 4 lemon leaves
  • 2 or 3 slices ginger
  • Pandan leaf (found in freezer compartment)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Optional: plantain, pumpkin, raisins or dates
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1 package tapioca flakes
  • 1 can jackfruit in syrup, undrained
  • 1 can attap fruit in syrup, undrained
  • Pinch of salt

Peel yams and cut into small cubes. Boil with Gula Jawa, sugar, lemon leaves, ginger and pandan leaf until yams are cooked.

Add vanilla and optional ingredients, such as plantains or pumpkin, turn heat to low and then put in coconut milk. Let set for 5 to 10 minutes and then turn heat off.

In another pan, boil tapioca flakes in water, adding more as necessary; cook until soft. Cool.

Cut jackfruit into small pieces. Mix jackfruit and attap fruit and their juice into yams.

Tapioca flakes and raisins should be put in last, just before serving, as they can absorb water.

Remove pandan leaf and lemon leaves before serving.

The dish is best when served warm, but it also tastes good when served cold.

Note: If you don't have lemon leaves, add 1 teaspoon lemon extract before serving.


PAKISTAN: Nighat Ali

Nighat Ali, a native of Pakistan who lives in Ross, has lived in the United States since her marriage 24 years ago.

One Ramadan tradition she brought from Pakistan is a "girls' night out" in which she and her daughters sing happy songs and decorate their hands with henna, a temporary tattoo. "I did my best to teach my girls all these things -- I believe in tradition. Tradition and religion go hand in hand."

She followed Pakistani tradition by choosing to have an arranged marriage, which "worked out very good. My five sisters are all happily married, too."

Husband Syed is a manager for the Star-Kist Tuna division of Del Monte, formerly H.J. Heinz. The family first lived in California, then Ohio, before moving to Pittsburgh three years ago.

Daughter Shafia, 23, is a University of Cincinnati pharmacy student, son Faisal, 20, is in prelaw at Penn State, and Midiha, 19, is at Slippery Rock University. Nighat has a master's in zoology, but "right now I'm a stay-at-home mom."

Cutlets

  • 4 cups oil, or as needed
  • 3 medium yellow onions
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro
  • Mint as needed
  • Salt to taste
  • Red pepper to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 5 medium white potatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger paste (fresh gingerroot peeled and ground)
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic paste (fresh garlic peeled, chopped and ground)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs

Preparation of ground beef: Chop onion into small pieces. Take small portion of onion and brown in oil. Add ground beef, ginger and garlic pastes and stir. Add red pepper, salt, and cumin and a small amount of water. Cook at low heat until water is dry (may take 1/2 hour). Add the remaining onion. Cut cilantro and mint leaves and add to cooked ground beef mixture.

Preparation of potatoes: Boil potatoes and then peel off skin and mash. Take small portion of mashed potatoes and small portion of ground beef and form into small balls (beef will be on inside, potatoes on outside). Flatten, then dip in egg and bread crumbs and fry in oil until golden brown.


IRAN: Gissou Raji

When Gissou Raji and her husband, Reza, lived in Iran, one of the first Americans she met was a Peace Corps volunteer. "He would say, 'I want to marry a Persian girl because they cook well,'" Gissou says with a laugh.

Gissou and her family now live in Fox Chapel, and she describes herself "as American as apple pie." But since the horrific events of 9/11, she says it's difficult to talk about "us [Muslims]. Honestly I feel very guilty, even though I'm not responsible. I feel bad that people who did not have a right mind would do this. Any religion could have this problem because of some minority group."

Pittsburgh has "lots of good, open-minded people,but some people, even if they don't know you, they don't like you."

When she and her husband came to America in 1974, they planned to return to Iran after he finished his studies. The 1979 revolution in Iran changed their minds. "It was the uncertainty -- there were too many factions at war."

Today, daughter Shabnam has finished college and is working in Florida, Sanaz is finishing her master's degree at Pitt and Cyrus is a senior. Dr. Raji is a physician and a professor at Pitt.

Gissou's own mother was a teacher, and she herself began teaching English when she was barely out of high school. "Islam puts a great emphasis on education. My mother was a direct descendent of Muhammad, and she was very spiritual, but she never believed in hair covering."A CNN sound bite that characterized Ramadan only as the month when Muslims don't eat or have sex had it wrong, she believes.

"The main purpose is the discipline. Discipline can take you a long way in life. And when you are hungry yourself, you really know how poor people feel."

Meat Patties (Persian Kotlet-E Gusht)

  • 1 large potato (new potatoes are best, better than Idaho)
  • 1 pound ground beef, veal or lamb (she prefers beef or veal; it also can be made with ground chicken)
  • 1 medium onion, grated or ground in food processor
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 3/4 cup dry bread crumbs
  • 3/4 cup oil (divided)
  • Parsley for garnish
  • Optional: Saffron, chopped chives and parsley

Boil potato whole until cooked. Peel, mash and set aside.

In a bowl, combine meat, onion, egg, mashed potato, salt, pepper, cinnamon, and turmeric. Knead with hands for 10 minutes to form a smooth paste.

Using damp hands, shape mixture into lumps the size of an egg. Flatten and roll in bread crumbs. In batches, brown on both sides in a skillet in 1/4 cup hot oil over medium heat. After cooked, place Kotlets on a paper towel to remove excess oil.

Arrange Kotlets on a serving platter. Serve with french fries, steamed vegetables, bread, salad and fresh herbs.

Makes 4 servings. They also can be made into dollar-size pancake appetizers.


PALESTINE: Afaf Khaleq and Lila Ghanem

Afaf Khaleq, right, was born in Palestine. Her daughter-in-law, Lila Ghanem, was born in California, where she met her husband. They share a home in Wilkins and a family that includes four children, 9 to 4.

Afaf was 18 when her father brought her to the United States in 1969. She lived first in Detroit, where she married, then California.

Today, a mother, a father and a grandmother pass on their religious and cultural heritage to Dalal, 9, Ahamad, 8, Ehasan, 6, who all attend the Universal Academy, and Afaf, 4, who goes to Garden City in Monroeville.

Afaf moved to Pittsburgh five years ago, and it's "been good," says her daughter-in-law.

During Ramadan, "We go to the mosque and pray, we read the Quran," says Afaf. "We help a neighbor -- it doesn't matter what culture."

Afaf also finds herself cooking a lot of sweets, as well as the delicious Kidra, which the women took to the potluck.

Their days begin with a meal that must be completed by 6:42 a.m. and may last until 10 o'clock with dinners and prayers at the mosque.

Lila considers herself a modern Muslim woman, living the often hectic lifestyle of the typical American mom. "Because I was raised here, I do a lot of stuff that I shouldn't be doing. I don't pray five times a day -- I wish I did. Other people are more strict with their children. I don't push religion on them. It wasn't pushed on me.

"My younger son went to school fasting, but I don't know if he comes home fasting or not."

Though Lila isn't employed outside the home, "I run around a lot, taking kids to school, doctors, shopping."

When it comes to breaking the daily fast, though, she makes a special effort to be with her husband. Each evening she takes food to him and his employees at the East Liberty Super Dollar. The children have their evening meal with their grandmother.

Lila began covering her head three years ago. "My mother was ecstatic."

The family shares one tradition with Muslims from all over the world. They break their fast by eating dates. "It's a happy time" Lila says.

Kidra

  • 1 whole chicken, cut up
  • 2 cups rice
  • 1/4 cup uncooked angel hair pasta
  • 1 can chickpeas
  • Dash of each to taste: salt, pepper, curry, cumin, garlic powder and turmeric
  • 1/4 cup sliced browned almonds and pine nuts
  • 1 onion

Boil the chicken with spices and onion until done. Reserve broth. Brown angel hair pasta. Brown almonds and pine nuts. (We used a nonstick frying pan.)

In a 10-by-13-inch baking dish, mix uncooked rice, chickpeas, browned angel hair pasta and spices. Stir in chicken broth (use broth left from boiling chicken, at least 4 cups). Put cooked chicken pieces on top. Cover with foil. Bake in 350-degree oven for 1 hour. Garnish with browned nuts.

Tester's note: We used "pick of the chick" and, except for the legs, boned the pieces.


UNITED STATES: Elaine Linn

Elaine Linn of Forest Hills met her first Muslim at Drake University in Des Moines. The young woman, a Palestinian, lived across the hall.

"It was my first introduction to Islam," Elaine recalls. "It broadened my mind, realizing there is more out there than what was presented to you growing up."

Raised a Lutheran, Elaine is a convert.

She met her husband, Ahmed Abdelwahab, at Pitt. Today, he teaches economics at Robert Morris University and California University of Pennsylvania and she is program administrator at Pitt's Center for International Studies.

"You have to convert for yourself. It's not one of those things you can do it for him," she says. "After research, much soul-searching and questioning, I came to this conclusion" to become a Muslim.

The couple's three children, Hisham, 17, Youssef, 14, and Mariam, 9, attend public schools, the boys at Woodland Hills High and their daughter, Dickson Elementary.

Though children are not required to observe the fast until puberty, many ease it into it earlier. "My daughter eats a breakfast, doesn't eat or drink until we break our fast in the evening. So she stops eating at 7:30 a.m. rather than 5:30."

Last week Elaine was busy making brownies for a meal at the Oakland mosque. The brownies would be served with ice cream -- an American dessert if there ever were one.

"There's such diversity in Islam, and the food reflects that," she says. "We learn about each other constantly."

In Egypt, her husband's homeland, the tradition for Eid is to give "fresh money" as gifts. "To this day he'll get a new 10-dollar bill and give it to the kids."

Koushari (Lentils, Macaroni and Rice in Oil)

This is one of Elaine Linn's favorite Egyptian foods.

  • 3 large onions, sliced
  • 1 quart water, divided
  • Oil for frying
  • 2 cups rice
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 1/2 cups brown lentils
  • 8 ounces small macaroni

Sauce:

  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • Chili pepper, optional

Saute onions until brown. Drain on paper towel, keeping oil for lentils.

Put 3 cups water in a pot with a few drops oil. Bring to boil. Add rice and 1 teaspoon salt. After water returns to a boil, lower heat.

Simmer until done, about 30 minutes.

Wash lentils, then boil until tender, about 1 hour. Drain and gently stir in oil left from browning the onions.

Boil macaroni until tender, about 10 to 15 minutes. Drain.

For sauce: Slice garlic. Saute in small amount of oil. Add vinegar, tomato paste, remaining 1 teaspoon of salt, cumin, remaining 1 cup of water and chili pepper, if desired.

Cook until mixture boils. Lower heat; simmer until cooked.

To serve: Layer rice, lentils and macaroni. Spread sauce on top. Garnish with fried onion.


EGYPT: Maysa Gharib

In Egypt during Ramadan, the streets at night resemble Christmas in America, complete with colorful lighted trees and playing children.

"People enjoy each other's company the whole night -- they don't sleep," says Brookline's Maysa Gharib, who moved here seven years ago when her husband was earning his Ph.D.

They have two sons, Ahmed, 15, a ninth-grader at Schenley High School, and Zeyead, 11, a sixth-grader at Frick International. In Egypt, the boys would carry lanterns and knock on doors and ask for candy and nuts.

"Our custom is to give the kids walnuts and hazelnuts, even peanuts -- everything with high calories, something nourishing after fasting all day."

Here, she says, "I'm trying to reward them. Every day we have a celebration. They like Ramadan."

She says she has "too much time to spend. So I have creative ideas, making some food it usually takes too much time or labor to do."

Husband Hossam teaches at the University of Illinois. Her two brothers, in New Jersey, and Missouri often come for Eid. "This year it will be close to Thanksgiving," she says. "It's a lot of cooking."

Maysa, a veterinarian with a master's in clinical pathology, is a Pitt research specialist in psychology. Her head scarf does not interfere. "I choose to wear it. If I were oppressed, wouldn't I stop now that I am in a free country and no one obligates me?

"The people who say Muslim women are oppressed haven't studied the Quran. It is the most feminist book on the face of the earth. If there is any oppression, it comes from the culture, not from the religion."

Covering her head is "the Islamic way, the religious way. Even in Christianity and Judaism, there is the modest way."

Kofta

  • 2 pounds beef
  • 2 onions
  • 1 slice soft bread
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • Salt and pepper

Mince beef and onions twice (till smooth consistency). Soak bread in milk and add to meat together with seasoning. Mix well and shape into rounds 2 to 3 inches in diameter, or shape as fingers. Grill or fry on skewers or in a double grill until cooked.


SYRIA: Izdihar El-Hillal

Creating stuffed grape leaves requires patience and the skilled hands of someone like Izdihar El-Hillal of Monroeville. She learned the technique from her mother in Syria, where in the summer they used fresh grape leaves. Recently, she and her daughter made more than 200. How long did it take? "About an hour and 15 minutes," she says.

"We have lots of community in Pittsburgh," says the camera-shy Izdehar, who studied business management in Chicago, finishing at the University of Pittsburgh.

Daughter Huwaida followed the career path of her father, and she is a physician in Youngstown. She has two children, one nearly 4 and another 2. In September, Izdihar's son Ousama finished his residency as an orthodontist, and 16-year-old Nadia is a junior at The Ellis School.

Izdihar moved to the United States as a married woman in 1973. Dr. Mohammad El-Hallal did his residency at Mount Sinai Hospital in Chicago, and they have lived in Pittsburgh since 1978. He is with UPMC Jeannette Hospital, Westmoreland Hospital and Forbes.

Grape Leaves

  • 1 1/2 cups white rice (Uncle Ben's preferred)
  • 2 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced
  • 1 parsley bunch, chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 large spoon dry mint (we used heaping tablespoon)
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 jar grape leaves

Soak rice for 1/2 hour; drain.

Add tomatoes, parsley, onions and all other ingredients (excluding actual grape leaves).

Wash grape leaves, drain. (Each roll in our 1-pound jar was two or three leaves wrapped together, and each was used singly.)

Flatten mixture on flattened grape leaf, and use reasonable amount (approximately one full spoon) of rice mixture.

Roll leaf by folding both sides in toward rice. Then wrap from bottom to top of leaf. (The tomato cooks and makes room for the rice.)

Stack leaves in circle in round pot (there will be a space in the center) and simmer on stove for approximately 2 hours. Add more olive oil and lemon juice, dry mint and garlic to taste.

Note: Add water, lemon juice and salt to leaves, and then cover leaves with glass plate.

Grape leaves (we found ours at Giant Eagle) can be served cold; if you have them stuffed with meat, serve them hot.

Tester's note: Using a tall pasta pot with an inner colander, we stacked the grape leaves in a single layer, topped with a dessert plate; then another layer and a plate; until all the stuffed grape leaves were in the pot. We simmered them for two hours. Then you can pull out the colander to drain when they're done.


Food editor Suzanne Martinson can be reached at smartinson@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1760.

Sunday, November 23, 2003

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