Stuffed Grape Leaves (Dolmas)

May 29, 2011

Dolmas are a food that I had never considered making.  I have always enjoyed eating them, but truth be told, most of my experience with ones that come out of a can,  hardly a claim to fame.   So while staring out at some of the many vineyards that surround us, it occurred to me that I should make my own.  It started with picking the grape leaves and preserving them.  Then I set out to find a recipe for reference.  The difficulty I had in locating an acceptable recipe tells me that I am not the only one who is not making these at home.  Well folks, it is time. These dolmas are really not difficult to make and they taste very good.

At our local library, I came across The New Book of Middle Eastern Food, by Claudia Roden, which guided me through the process.  (Libraries are a great source of cookbooks!) I learned that there are both hot and cold dolmas.  Traditionally the hot contain ground beef or lamb and the cold are rice based.  I opted for the rice filling, as I intended to serve them with grilled lamb.

The recipe below is adapted from the one provided by Roden.  I opted for use my preserved grape leaves, add in fresh herbs from the garden instead of dried, and use the lemon solution from the preserved grape leaves.  I also threw in some golden raisins.  All in all the process is pretty simple- parboil the rice, mix it up with fresh herbs and spices, roll them up and cook.  As the dolmas cook, they absorb the lemony, olive oil and water, plump up and become incredibly aromatic.  I love the snap of the grape leaves as I bite into a roll.  This is a very satisfying side dish or appetizer.  Definitely worth the minimal trouble of putting them together.

Stuffed Grape Leaves


adapted from The New Book of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden

makes 25 dolmas

1 pint Preserved Grape Leaves (reserve the liquid for cooking!) or store-bought brined leaves (if using these be sure to rinse them thoroughly with cool water)

the filling

1 1/4 cup long grain white rice

1 cup peeled and chopped tomatoes

1/2 cup thinly sliced green onion

3 tablespoons finely chopped parsley

4 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint

3 tablespoons chopped raisins (I use golden)

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Bring 2 cups water to a boil.  Place rice in a heat tolerant bowl.  Pour water over rice.  Let sit for 30 seconds.  Drain rice and rinse in cool water.  Mix rice with remaining ingredients.

Lay a grape leaf on a cutting board, vein side up.  Place a bit of rice mixture on the center of the leaf (1-2 teaspoons depending on the size of the leaf).  Fold the bottom of the leaf up over the rice mixture.  Fold the sides over.  Roll  the bundle up towards the tip of the leaf.  You want the bundle to be slightly loose to allow the rice to plump up without splitting the leaf.  Repeat with the remaining leaves until all the mixture is used.

to cook the dolmas

2 large chard leaves (or extra grape leaves)

4 cloves garlic, peeled

1 cup reserved lemon solution from Preserved Grape Leaves  or 2/3 cup water and 1/3 cup lemon juice

2/3 cup olive oil

1 teaspoon sugar

Line a medium-sized pot with a large chard leaf or imperfect grape leaves.  Tightly pack the dolmas into the bottom of the pot.  Slide the garlic cloves randomly in between the dolmas.  Mix the lemon solution, olive oil, and sugar.  Pour over the dolmas.  Cover in an additional chard leaf and a small plate (that fits inside the pot and rests on the dolmas preventing them from opening up).  Cover the pot and bring to a boil, immediately reduce heat to low and cook 30 minutes or until the rice is tender.  Remove pot from heat, uncover, and allow to cool.  Once dolmas are cool, carefully remove from the pot to prevent the leaves from tearing (they will be very tender).  Serve or refrigerate.

Here is a printer-friendly version of the recipe: Stuffed Grape Leaves (dolmas)

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Herb-rubbed Pork Loin

Lentil Bulgur Salad with Feta and Mint

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