Dolmas, stuffed grape leaves, are these delicious savory morsels that you can often find at salad bars, as well as many Greek and Middle Eastern restaurants.
They are one of my favorite appetizers, and although I enjoy them enormously I have not been brave enough to actually make them myself. But, last time I was browsing through my local Indian store I noticed a jar of grape leaves and went for it!
Believe it or not, dolmas are not all that hard to make. They do take time, and lots of hands-on but you end up with a huge batch that can serve a large party so it’s definitely worth the effort. Making dolmas at home will allow you to customize the recipe – in my case that meant less oil, more lemon juice, and adding some pine nuts to diversify the texture.
These dolmas are phenomenal, and will impress your guests to no end! You can eat them warm, you can eat them cold, you can serve them with some hummus or with a dollop of sour cream or yogurt. You can make them into a sandwich with some pita bread or enjoy in your salad the next day if you happen to have leftovers.
If you want to learn the basic “stuffing the leaves” technique, please check my Stuffed Cabbage Rolls post for step-by-step guide!
Stuffed Grape Leaves
What you’ll need:
1 cup rice, medium grain
1 3/4 cup water
6 scallions, finely chopped (green and white parts)
4 cloves garlic, finely sliced
1 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
3 tablespoons fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
1 lemon, zest and juice
1 large jar of grape leaves (2 lbs (1 kg) or similar)
2 tablespoons olive oil
What you’ll do:
- Combine medium grain rice with water in a large pot and place over the medium high heat. Bring to boil then turn the heat down to simmer. Cook the rice until fully cooked which takes 15 to 20 minutes. The rice should be soft and sticky.
- When the rice is ready, place a large frying pan (or similar) over the medium heat, add oil, scallions, garlic and pine nuts, and let brown for 1-2 minutes. The pine nuts should be well toasted but not burned so keep mixing and keep your eye on the pan.
- Add the rice, parsley and mint, and mix well. Let everything cook for another 5 minutes or so.
- Turn the heat off, and add lemon juice and lemon zest. Mix everything together and let cool for 1-2 hours.
- Open the jar of grape leaves and gently unfold each of the stacks. These will be tightly packed, and you will need to gently peel each grape leaf off. Keep all the leaves, big, small, regular, wacky, ripped and whole because you will use the best ones to make dolmas and the not so great ones to line the pan and create a cozy cooking environment for your stuffed grape leaves.
- Use the not so great leaves to completely cover the bottom os a large pot (like a Dutch oven) with grape leaves. I recommend doubling the leaves, so that you have a nice, thick layer at the bottom.
- Take bigger leaves, and stuff them. This is actually not that hard – place a leaf on a flat surface and put a tablespoon of stuffing at the bottom of the leaf, where the stem used to be. Use your fingers to form the stuffing into a tight ball – this will help hold everything together. Put the stuffed grape leaf into the pot and continue rolling the dolmas until you run out of the stuffing. If you need to make multiple layers of dolmas in your pot, remember to cover each layer with lots of grape leaves.
- Turn the heat to medium high, and simmer dolmas for about 15-20 minutes. Serve cool, at room temperature, and drizzle with some olive oil and freshly squeezed lemon juice just before serving. Enjoy!
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