White Bass Steamed In Grape Leaves

While searching for recipe ideas this week, I stumbled upon a recipe that called for sole baked in grape leaves. It was published in an old newspaper from 1991 among a slew of other ethnic recipes. The instructions were very brief and the ingredients were very simple, but I became completely intrigued by the concept of steaming fish in grape leaves. For those who have had experience with Persian or Arabic food, you'll know that the use of grape leaves is very common. The recipe I found did not allude to any kind of origin, but I suppose it's Mediterranean-ish. So I filled in the blanks and added my own twist. What we have here is delicious white bass steamed in white wine, lemon juice, cilantro, garlic, red pepper flakes and lots of rich olive oil. The grape leaves added its own aroma while steaming the fish perfectly. Serve with your favorite kind of rice or couscous. We bought an amazing bag of Basmati Rice Medley from Trader Joe's. It was perfect!

Servings: 2
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 15-20 minutes, or depending on the thickness of fish
- 8 filets of white bass (or any mild flavored, white fleshed fish)
- 8 ounces grape leaves, canned or fresh
- extra virgin olive oil
- juice of half a lemon, plus extra lemon wedges for garnish
- 4 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup cilantro, finely chopped
- dried red pepper flakes, to taste
- 1/4 cup white wine, something light like pinot grigio
- sea salt, to taste
- ground black pepper, to taste

For those who are unfamiliar with with grape leaves, the preserved kind comes packed in a brine like this. You will most likely find it at your local international supermarket. If you have access to fresh grape leaves, please use it.

To order online, here is a good website with good prices: http://parthenonfoods.com/-c-70.html
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. 
Boil a pot of water. One by one, blanch preserved grape leaves in water for about 3 seconds. Lay leaves on a plate or bowl as you blanch. If using fresh grape leaves, blanch for 5 seconds or until grape leaves begin to soften. 

We bought a 16 ounce jar and used about half of it.
2. In a large baking dish (big enough to lay all your filets flat in one layer), cover the bottom and sides with half of the grape leaves, glossy side up.
The glossy side is smoother and slightly darker in color. It is essentially the top of the leaf. 
The un-glossy side is the bottom of the leaf. It is duller and you can feel the veins. 
This is how your baking dish should look. Good rule of thumb is to have at least 2 layers of grape leaves covering the bottom. 
3. Next, brush a generous amount of olive oil on the leaves.
Sprinkle sea salt on the leaves, to taste. This is to salt the bottom of your fish. 
4. Be sure to trim any skin and large dark areas off fish filets. Rinse in cold water and dry with a paper towel. 

Lay filets in a single layer on top of grape leaves. Sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper, to taste. NOTE: We apologize for not using a real pepper grinder. We ran out. :-/
Next, sprinkle chopped cilantro and sliced garlic over fish. Then, sprinkle red pepper flakes, to taste. 

Drizzle more olive oil over tops of filets. 
Squeeze half a lemon over fish. 
Then pour white wine into the dish. 
5. Finally, cover the fish with the other half of the grape leaves, glossy side down.  

Bake in a 325 degree F oven for 15-20 minutes, or until fish is cooked through and flaky. Depending on the thickness of your fish, cooking time may take longer.

Discard the top layer of grape leaves.
Serve with extra lemon wedges on the side. Drizzle filets with more olive oil, if desired. Enjoy with the rest of your wine and rice/couscous. 

You can eat the bottom layer of grape leaves if you want, or discard it. We discarded it.