It’s a Wrap Sweet and savory folded dishes draw on international inspiration

While growing up in Jewish Los Angeles, I was exposed to many traditional Ashkenazic dishes — kreplach, cheese blintzes and strudel, to name a few. But it wasn’t until I developed an interest in cooking that I realized most other cultures have similar dishes. Kreplach reminds me of Italian ravioli or Chinese pot-stickers, and the wrapping for cheese blintzes is the same as French crepes. My mother always put egg noodles in chicken soup, similar to Italian fettuccini. And the cabbage strudel that I make is like what the Hungarian strudel bars in Budapest serve.

The first recipe here, stuffed grape leaves, or Dolmas, consists of onions, rice and dried apricots wrapped in grape leaves and steamed. Many years ago, an Armenian friend brought us a platter stacked with Dolmas along with this recipe, which he had written on a legal notepad with drawings of how to assemble them in the pot. (I still have the original faded yellow page, stained with food, in my files.)

The second recipe, Cabbage Strudel, has sautéed cabbage, onions and brown sugar as the filing, which is wrapped in several layers of filo pastry dough, baked, and served topped with a sour cream dill sauce.

The last recipe, Cheese Blintzes, is a classic Ashkenazic Jewish food that probably originated in Poland. The blinis (crepes) are stuffed with a mixture of farmer’s cheese and eggs that are then folded (into) small envelope-like packets. I originally used hoop cheese, which is drier, but not easy to find, although it may be available in some specialty European markets.


From “The Gourmet Jewish Cook” by Judy Zeidler.

1 cup olive oil
4 large onions, finely chopped
1 cup water
1 cup long-grain white rice
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup chopped mint leaves
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 (6 ounce) packages dried apricot halves
1 (16 ounce) jar grape leaves, rinsed
Juice of 3 lemons

In a large heavy skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté, stirring frequently, until soft, but not yet browned, about 10 minutes. Add 1/2 cup water, the rice, parsley, mint, allspice as well as salt and pepper. Stir well, cover and continue cooking on low heat for about l5 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes to prevent sticking. The rice will be undercooked. Cool to room temperature. Dice 3 ounces of dried apricot halves and add them to the cooled rice.

Place 5 or 6 grape leaves on the bottom of a large pot. Place the remaining apricot halves on top of the grape leaves to cover. Set aside.

Snip off the stems of the remaining leaves and place on a work surface, vein sides up. Place a heaping tablespoon of the rice mixture in the center of each grape leaf. Roll the stem end over the filling, fold in the sides and roll up the leaf to enclose the rice completely.

Place the stuffed leaves seam sides down in neatly packed layers on top of the apricots in the prepared pot. Sprinkle with the remaining water and the lemon juice. Place a heavy oven-proof dish inside the pot on top of the grape leaves. Cover and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, until the grape leaves are tender.

Serve Dolmas hot or carefully transfer them to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and chill in a refrigerator. Serve on a large platter surrounded by the cooked apricots.
Makes about 60 Dolmas.


From “The Gourmet Jewish Cook” by Judy Zeidler.

1 package filo dough
1 pound unsalted butter,melted and clarified
2 cups fine breadcrumbs
Cabbage Filling (recipe follows)
Sour Cream Dill Sauce (recipe follows)
Sprigs of dill

Place a damp towel on a work area and cover with waxed paper. Remove 4 sheets of filo from the package. Keep the remaining sheets covered with waxed paper and a damp towel to prevent drying.

Fold the filo leaves in half like a closed book and unfold one page. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle lightly with breadcrumbs. Continue turning the pages of the filo, brushing with the butter and crumbs until you come to the center. Do not brush the butter in the center yet. Close the second half of the book over the first and work backwards: open the last leaf and continue spreading the butter and crumbs until you come back to the center. Now brush the center with the butter and sprinkle with crumbs.

Depending on how thick a strudel you want, spread 2 to 3 cups of the cabbage filling lengthwise on the open filo book, 2 inches from the edge closest to you and 2 inches from the sides. Cover the filling with the closest edge and fold the sides over. Brush the sides with butter and continue rolling up the filo, jellyroll fashion.

Cover a baking sheet with foil. Brush the foil with butter. Place the strudel on the foil, seam side down, and brush it with butter. Refrigerate uncovered until the butter hardens, 15 to 20 minutes. (The strudel can be frozen at this point.)

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Bake for 45 minutes or until golden brown.

Slice immediately and serve hot with Sour Cream Dill Sauce and garnish with sprigs of dill.

Makes 20 to 24 servings.


1/2 cup unsalted butter or margarine
1/4 cup flour
2 tablespoons paprika
3 cups finely chopped onions
4 quarts shredded cabbage
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
Freshly ground black pepper

Melt the butter in a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and stir until dissolved. Add the paprika and mix well. Add the onions and continue cooking for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to avoid sticking.

Add the cabbage, brown sugar and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer, partially covered, for 1 hour or until golden brown. Stir occasionally. Remove from the heat and cool. This mixture can be made a day ahead and stored, covered, in the refrigerator.

Sour Cream and Dill Sauce

2 cups sour cream or non-dairy sour cream
1/8 cup snipped fresh dill

In a bowl, combine the sour cream and dill. Cover and chill.


From “The Gourmet Jewish Cook” by Judy Zeidler.

Usually cheese blintzes are rolled up so they have a round shape, but I like to fold the blini over the filling like an envelope so the results are flat blintzes, which helps keep toppings from rolling off.

3 eggs
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/4 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups milk
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1 tablespoon brandy
Cheese Filling (recipe follows)
Strawberry or Raspberry Sauce (recipe follows)

In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs and sugar until well blended. Add the flour and salt and beat well. Slowly add the milk, blending until smooth. Stir in the melted butter and brandy.

In an 8-inch round skillet or crepe pan, melt 1 teaspoon of butter over medium heat. When the butter begins to bubble, pour in about 1/8 cup of the batter to cover the bottom of the pan with a thin layer. Rotate the pan quickly to spread the batter as thinly as possible. Cook on one side only for about 1 minute or until the edges begin to brown. Turn onto paper towels and transfer to a platter.

Repeat with the remaining batter and stack the blintzes with wax paper in between. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to fill.

Fill the brown side of each blini or crepe with the cheese mixture and fold, tucking ends in. Melt about 2 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet. Cook the blintzes on both sides, about 3 to 4 minutes on each side, or until lightly browned. Repeat with the remaining blintzes adding more butter as needed. With a metal spatula carefully transfer the blintzes to a serving platter.

Serve with bowls of sour cream and strawberry or raspberry sauce.

Makes about 24 blintzes.

Cheese Filling

2 pounds hoop, farmer’s or pot cheese
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup golden raisins (optional)
grated peel of 1 lemon (optional)

In a bowl, combine all ingredients.

Strawberry or Raspberry Sauce

2 (10 ounce) packages frozen strawberries or raspberries, thawed
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice or strawberry liqueur

Press the thawed strawberries or raspberries through a fine sieve into a bowl, or puree in food processor or blender and strain. Blend in the sugar and lemon juice. Heat in a small saucepan or serve cold.
Makes about 1 cup.

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