I've never been a big fan of those little Greek treats wrapped in grape leaves known as dolmas, or dolmades, until recently. My tastes must be changing now that I'm pregnant! But after attending a wedding reception last week and downing about a dozen of them, I thought I should try making them myself.
They were a lot of fun to make and they were so tasty that I had them for dinner instead of as an appetizer.
The grape leaves were a challenge to find, but eventually I spotted them in the aisle with the jars of roasted red peppers.
This recipe makes about 36 dolmas. Enjoy!
1, 8-oz. jar of grape leaves, drained
1 onion, grated
1 tsp. lemon zest
1 cup of raw white rice
1/2 cup olive oil, divided
2+ cups water, divided
1/2 cup golden raisins, chopped
1/2 pine nuts
1/2 finely chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh mint
1 tsp. salt
pepper to taste
several dashes of allspice, to taste
1/2 tsp. cinnamon, or to taste
1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
2 lemons, juiced and sliced (slice them after juicing)
For the filling, heat a large saute pan with 1/4 cup of oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and zest and cook, stirring once in a while, for 10 minutes. Add the rice, pine nuts and raisins and stir so that the rice is thoroughly coated in oil. Cook for 2 minutes then add 1 cup of water. Stir rice frequently and cook for 10 minutes so rice absorbs the water. If the water evaporates before this time is up, just add a bit more water.
Transfer mixture to a bowl and combine with the parsley, mint, salt, pepper, allspice, cinnamon and nutmeg. Taste mixture and make sure you like the flavor. Let it cool.
While this cools, prepare the grape leaves by bringing a large pot of water to a boil. Lay the grape leaves flat and set into the pot. Cover and return to a boil, then turn off the heat and let the pot sit for ten minutes. Drain and set the leaves in a bowl of cold water until you're ready to fill them.
Take a dutch oven and put a plate inside of it. Cover the plate with grape leaves that have tears or holes in them. This will prevent the dolmas from burning while you're boiling them.
Now it's time to make your dolmas.
First, lay out a leaf veiny-side upward and trim away any of the stem.
Place about a tablespoon of filling at the base of the leaf where you trimmed the stem. Pack it with your fingers so it's in a little mound.
Fold up the right corner of the leaf over the filling, then fold up the left leaf. Fold in the sides and roll it up!
Place dolma seam-side down in the dutch oven. Pack them in really tight and when you run out of room, cover with a layer of grape leaves and start a new layer of dolmas.
When you've run out of filling, used up your grape leaves or run out of space in your pot, pour 1/4 cup of olive oil, lemon juice and about a cup of water over the dolmas. Fill the pot with water until it reaches halfway up the top layer of dolmas. Take your lemon slices and fit them in between and on top of the dolmas. Place a plate upside-down on top of your dolmas and if you have space, place another plate right-side up on that one. This will weigh down the dolmas so they don't unwrap while they boil.
Place the lid on top and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 40 minutes. Test a dolma. If the rice is still firm, cover and simmer for another 10 minutes or so.
Enjoy with plain Greek yogurt!
For more photos and information, visit my blog post at http://knitnatak.blogspot.com/2011/11/greek-dolmades.html