I’ve done the lamb variant twice now, and the vegan/vegetarian variant once. I want to work with the vegan Dolmas a time or two more before I post that recipe; I found my venture to be a bit too “soggy”. There are a lot of great-sounding vegan stuffed grape leaf recipes out there, but most seem to contain pine nuts… which I cannot digest properly any more. Much as I loved pine nuts once upon a time!! But at the moment, the lamb variant seems to be ready for Prime Time, as it were.
Lamb: ground lamb, pastured and 100% free-range-grazed from Sepe’s Farm, Newtown, CT. I try my best to avoid having mega numbers of multiple animals ground up in my ground meats! Something simply feels skeevy about that!
The recipe I used can be found at The Spruce. I made half a recipe each time, and some other minor modifications, and for the first occurrence (a Greek-themed pot luck) I made a yogurt tzatziki, adding mint to my usual recipe.
Prep Time: 1.5 hours
Dolmas Cook Time: 50-60 minutes
Rest Time: At least cool to finger-food temperature.
Serves: a bunch of appetizers!
Leftovers?: Yes, refrigerate up to five days, serve cold or re-heat. Can be frozen.
Greek Dolmas with Lamb and Rice
- water for blanching grape leaves.
- Juice of two lemons, divided
- About one half of a 16-ounce jar fresh grape leaves in brine.
- 1 cup uncooked white basmati rice
- 1 medium-large onions, chopped finely.
- 2.5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 pound ground lamb (you can substitute beef)
- about 8 stalks of fresh dill, chopped
- 1 handful fresh mint, chopped
- 1 handful fresh curly parsley, chopped.
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon Himalayan salt (regular fine, too)
- 2 cups of water
Rinse leaves to remove excess salt; then boil a pot of water, add grape leaves and turn heat off. Let soak for 4-5 minutes, then drain. Set aside.
In a half tablespoon of oil, saute onions until translucent, but not brown.
Let rice soak in hot tap water for at least ten minutes, then drain.
In a bowl, mix together onions, rice, the rest of the olive oil, 1 lemon’s juice, and the spices and salt.
Separate the grape leaves, cut off the stem with a paring knife or scissors, and add a generous teaspoon or so of mixture to the base part of the leaf – the darker green shinier surface should be on the outside of the wrap. Fold the leaf up, tuck in the two side lobes, then continue rolling, and set the leaf with the final roll on the bottom, so the thing doesn’t unravel while cooking.
I found this video to be a wonderful teaching aid: Rolling Grape Leaves. I just discovered, when hunting this video back down so I could refer to it here, there are now devices one can buy that will do this onerous (?) task for you. I don’t think they will save much time, however – they’re not automated! At any rate, pictures below!
Put a plate in the bottom of the pot you will be cooking the grape leaves in. Put in a plate up side down – theoretically it should be close-fitting to the bottom of the pot, but I don’t seem to own such plates. I don’t think it matters.
Add some unused, unstuffed grape leaves (ie, some of those that rip when you are separating them from each other, or that ripped when you tugged them out of their tightly-packed jar)! This keeps the bottom dolmas from burning. Add the dolmas, seam sides down. One or two or three layers are okay. Place more of the excess leaves over the top. Add the water to cover (about two cups, generally speaking, but go by the size of your pot and the amount of dolmas. Add the rest of the lemon juice, and more if you are so inclined. Put a plate on top of the dolmas, to keep them from floating.
Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, covered. 50 minutes seems about right, but if you have three layers of dolmas, you may wish to keep them simmering five or so minutes more.
Use tongs to remove. Serve warm, or serve after refrigeration, chilled (you can nuke them if you desire them warm later).