Fish Wrapped in Grape Leaves
The first time I experienced a whole fish wrapped in grape leaves was in Cairo, Egypt, in the early 2000s. I was having dinner with my new family at their home in the Nile before my father’s wedding. The meal resonates change, love and growth for me. I enjoy using this method because the brined grape leaves insulate the fish, keeping it moist, and add a mild saltiness. I wanted to bring this dish to Sababa to give the guests the feeling of camaraderie as they share a whole fish with each other.
- 1 teaspoon harissa or chili paste of choice
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
- Sprinkle of salt and pepper to taste
- 1 1–2 pound whole white fish (such as branzino, mullet, haddock), scaled and gutted (if you can’t find a whole fish, use a 6- to 8-ounce portion of salmon)
- 3 slices lemon
- 16 grape leaves in brine
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a small bowl mix together the harissa and fresh herbs and season with salt and pepper. Stuff the fish with this mixture, and add the lemon slices. Peel apart the grape leaves, keeping them intact, and create an overlapping line approximately 2 inches larger than the fish. Once you have your first row established, build upwards, adding another row until you have a rough rectangle, approximately two-and-a-half times the height of your fish. Place the fish on the first row and roll it up in the leaves. Half way through wrapping fold the ends in like a burrito and complete the wrapping process. Transfer to a baking sheet and bake for 12 to 16 minutes, or until the fish is cooked, but still moist. Serve in the middle of the table and let everyone unwrap it.
- Photo credit: Lori Gardner