Dolmas are the amazingly delicious stuffed grape leaves that you might recognize from Middle Eastern restaurants or the salad bar at your natural grocer. Making dolmas from scratch is a bit time-consuming compared with buying the canned variety, but the flavor is even better. Serving these with tzatziki dip or hummus will make you the hit of any party (read: you're not going home alone).
The grape leaves in this recipe can be purchased at any Middle East grocer and most large natural food stores. You can also use your own, if you happen to have grape vines nearby. Just blanch fresh leaves in boiling water for 2-3 minutes or until they soften up. And if you’re using canned leaves, be sure to rinse the brine off them before using.
You can use forbidden black, sushi, brown, or plain old white rice for this recipe. I like forbidden black because the high gluten helps everything stick together and it looks cool.
Prep time: 2 cocktails
18 or so grape leaves
1 medium red onion
1 cup olive oil, divided
1 cup prepared forbidden black rice
1/3 cup fresh mint, finely chopped
1/3 cup fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
A small handful of fresh dill (finely chopped) or a few shakes dried dill (optional)
1 tsp salt
½ cup pine nuts, finely chopped (optional)
Juice of 2 lemons
Blanch grape leaves if you're using fresh; rinse if you're using canned. Set aside.
To prepare filling: In a large frying pan or wok, heat ¼ cup of the olive oil on medium heat. Sauté onion 6 minutes, stirring frequently. Add rice, mint, parsley, dill (if using), salt, and pine nuts and sauté one more minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.
To fill each grape leave, place the smooth side DOWN. Add about 1-2 tsp rice mixture per leaf (though this will vary, depending on leaf size). Fold the leaf in half, then fold in sides. Then roll up like a burrito. Be sure you roll tightly, or else they’ll unwrap during cooking.
Arrange the dolmas in a single layer in big round pot or pan that has a snug-fitting lid. Top the dolmas with the remaining ¾ cup olive oil and lemon juice. Next, place a plate on top of dolmas so they don’t float away when you add water… but be careful not to crush them!
Now add BOILING water so it just covers the dolmas (if they’re not tightly packed, only submerge till they’re 2/3 covered).
Place the dolma pot on the stovetop and turn the heat to high. Bring the water to a boil, then put the lid on an reduce to simmer for 60 minutes or until liquid is absorbed.
Once liquid is all cooked off, remove from heat and allow to cool in pot (moving them while hot will break the leaves). Once cool, remove. Serve at room temp or slightly chilled. An extra sprinkle of salt and some lemon wedges are good accompaniments.