My Greek Dolmathes (Stuffed Grape Leaves) recipe originally published in Edible Magazine, a James Beard Award Winning publication. I have updated it with additional photos and to include vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, and omnivore options.
Cynthia Daddona demonstrates how to make and roll stuffed grape leaves along with stuffed zucchini flowers, peppers, eggplants, tomatoes and more! You can watch the segment in her culinary-TV program, Crete - Under the Grecian Sun. (Image ©Modern Day Goddess Wisdom & Films LLC)
When I traveled to Crete, I enjoyed my visits to agrotourism farms where we were
served amazing farm to table Mediterranean Greek meals. Crete is an abundant
culinary island and the birthplace of the research for the healthy Mediterranean diet. It
began in Crete and then included Southern Italy and eventually some of the other
Mediterranean countries. As an Italian American with Greek heritage who is married to
a Greek American, I love creating, serving and eating Italian and Greek Mediterranean
inspired meals. As a Living Well Expert and On Camera Personality of recipe and
culinary travel videos I was asked by Edible Magazine in awhile back for my Dolmathes
Good Things in Small, Tasty Packages
Dolmathes are a great way to use grape leaves to create delicious bites of flavor. In Greece, they are part of a mezes (little bites) menu that is often eaten before a meal while gathering with others. I like to make them as an appetizer, side dish or even sometimes as an entrée.
The leaves are best picked from the vine when they are young and tender or they can be found in a jar at gourmet or Mediterranean specialty markets. If you can't obtain fresh grape leaves, you can find grape leaves packed in brine. Here is a brand on amazon that doesn’t use chemical preservative. You can make a vegan, vegetarian or omnivore version.
Makes 8-10 servings (4-5 dolmathes per serving) 50 fresh grape leaves or 1 (32-ounce) jar of grape leaves in brine
1 cup olive oil (1/2 cup to sauce the filling, ? cup to cook dolmathes (or Dolmades)
4 cups of finely minced onions
11/z cups of uncooked long-grain white basmati rice
5 tablespoons fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
1/: cup fresh dill, chopped
'11/z teaspoons sea salt
5 tablespoons tomato paste
3 to 4 lemons ('1 for garnish and 1 added to the cooking water if using brined grape leaves from ajar)
Optional: For vegan/vegetarian version, use rice only or add plant-based meat substitute.
For omnivore version use 1 to 1- 1/2 pounds of ground lamb, or beef, or bison depending on your taste. PREPARING THE GRAPE LEAVES
For fresh grape leaves: Look for tender, medium-size leaves on the vine. Make sure the leaves have not been sprayed with pesticides. Wash leaves. Cut off stems. Blanch the leaves in a pot by pouring boiling water on them and letting them sit for 2-5 minutes. The time may vary depending on thickness of leaves, but you want to still be able to roll them with the filling. Drain in colander and place in cold water to keep moist.
For grape leaves from a jar: Remove brine by rinsing leaves with cold water. Remove any damaged leaves-set those aside to use to line bottom of pot that you will cook dolmades in. Cut off any stems. Boil a pan of water and add the juice of 1 lemon. Add leaves and continue to boil to make leaves softer for 3-5 minutes, depending on thickness of leaves. This reduces the brine taste. Drain in colander and place in cold water to keep moist.
CREATING THE FILLING
Put 7z cup of olive oil in pan. Add the finely chopped onions. Saute onions until clear. Add uncooked rice and continue to saute. Remove from pan and place in large bowl. Then add mint, dill, salt, tomato paste and juice of I lemon juice. (If doing a meat version, add uncooked ground meat here.) Mix together thoroughly.
ROLLING THE GRAPE LEAVES
Place leaves on fat surface, shiny side down, vein side up. Depending on size of leaf, use I to 2 teaspoons of filling for smaller dolmades and up to a I tablespoon for larger-portioned dolmades. (Remember that rice will expand upon cooking, so allow a bit of space when rolling leaves.) Place filling at base of leaf, where stem begins. Roll leaf up from bottom 1 turn toward top. Then roll each side toward filling and then take base and roll toward top until done.
COOKING THE GRAPE LEAVES
Place rolled grape leaves in a big pot lined with several flat grape leaves. (This helps bottom layer of dolmades to cook better.) Place rolled dolmades in a circle in the pot, layering the rows as needed. Fewer layers are better, so choose a wide-based pot. Add t/z crp of olive
oil. In a separate kettle or pan, boil enough water to cover dolmades completely. Pour boiled water over dolmades in pot. Add juice of
I lemon. After final layer place a weight such as a pair of dinner plates on top to anchor dolmades in place while cooking.
Bring the pot of dolmades to a boil, and then turn down and simmer for 45-60 minutes. Taste-test to see if rice (or meat for meat filling) is done; if not, cook for a few more minutes adding a little more water to pot
if needed. When done remove gently. Dolmades may be served warm, room temperature or cold. Garnish on plate with lemon slices.
Kali Orexi (that's "good eating" in Greek).