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Grilled Snapper in Grape Leaves with Caper-Lemon Sauce
From Olive Oil, by Peggy Knickerbocker and Laurie Smith

These Greek-inspired grape-leaf bundles taste best when grilled over charcoal. A branch of rosemary thrown on the coals will give the smoke an appealing woodsy scent. Fresh sardines, sea bass fillets, or any firm fish fillets can be substituted for the snapper. Grape leaves from Middle Eastern specialty stores are sold in jars in brine and must be rinsed before using. If you are using fresh grape leaves, remove the tough stems and blanch the leaves in boiling water for 3 to 5 minutes. In the winter, these packets can be cooked on a stove-top grill or in a cast-iron skillet, but you'll miss the flavor of the coals.

Ingredients:

28 to 32 grape leaves
1 pound red snapper fillets
Extra-virgin olive oil, preferably Greek for brushing
Shredded zest of 2 lemons
14 to 16 fresh dill sprigs or fennel sprigs
Salt to taste
Freshly ground pepper to taste

For the Caper-Lemon Sauce:

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil,
Juice of 1 lemon
1 Tbsp salt-cured capers, rinsed, drained, and chopped
1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh dill or fennel tops
Salt to taste
Freshly ground pepper to taste

Instructions:

Prepare a fire in a charcoal grill. Remove the grape leaves from the brine and rinse in cool water. Dry on kitchen towels. Cut the fish into 2-inch squares about 1/2 inch thick, and remove any errant bones.

On a platter, overlap 2 grape leaves, stem side up. Place a piece of fish in the center, brush the fish with olive oil, scatter on a little lemon zest, and top with a dill or fennel sprig. Season with salt and pepper. Roll up the fish in the leaves, using a little extra olive oil to seal the bundle. If you feel the bundles might come apart, tie with kitchen string. Brush the outsides with a little olive oil.

To make the sauce, in a small bowl, stir together all the ingredients with a fork.

Place the fish bundles on the grill rack, 6 to 8 inches above the hot coals. Cook for about 4 minutes on each side, turning once with a spatula. To test for doneness, open a bundle and test the fish with a fork; it should be opaque in the center. Arrange the bundles on a warmed platter and pour a little of the sauce over the top. Serve the remaining sauce in a bowl on the side. The grape leaves will be soft and once unfolded, can be eaten with the fish. Alternatively, serve the bundles at room temperature.

Yield: Serves 4

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