Tuesday, October 16, 2012


It's kind of hard to find grape leaves.  You have to go to a gourmet foods store or live in an area with a large Greek or Middle-Eastern population.  Whole Foods, Gelson's, and Bristol Farms are probably your best bet for the big chains.  After striking out at Surfas (the girl was surprised they were out), I found them at Sorrento Italian Market, which I haven't been inside in at least 30 years.  They have everything Mediterranean that you didn't know you wanted, plus an Italian deli and bakery.  Slightly pricey, but they have it.

Once you find the leaves (they come in jars), the only thing I know of to make with them is stuffed grape leaves.  They are variously called dolma (dolmades) or sarma, depending on if you're Greek and understand what the words mean.  In America, they are commonly called dolmades.

I decided to make the meat-filled ones.  When I go out, I usually eat vegetarian dolmades because they are served cold and therefore aren't overcooked.  When you make a meat filling, they should be served warm out of the pot.  Well, I must have overfilled them, because I ran out of filling 2/3 of the way through the leaves.  Whipped up a small batch of vegetarian, all-rice filling and finished them off.  The recipe below will reflect the quantities I believe I should have used.

This is based on the recipe in Mideast & Mediterranean Cuisines

1 Tb olive oil
1/2 C minced onion
1/2 lb ground lamb
1/4 C short-grain rice (like Calrose)
*1 Tb chopped fresh mint or 1 tsp crushed dried mint
*1 Tb chopped fresh dill or 1 tsp dill weed
salt & pepper to taste
1/3 C water
1 8oz jar preserved grape leaves, about 28
2 lemons, thinly sliced
boiling water
lemon juice to taste

1.  Heat oil in a medium skillet.  Add onion and sauté until onion is tender.  Add meat and cook until meat is crumbly and browned.  Drain off fat.  Add rice, mint, dill, salt, and pepper.  Stir over medium heat until rice is glazed.  Add 1/3 C water and bring to a simmer.  Cook, uncovered, over medium heat 5 minutes or until liquid is absorbed.  Set aside to cool while preparing leaves.

2.  Drain grape leaves.  Cut off tough stems.  Place leaves in a large bowl and pour boiling water over them to rinse and soften the leaves.  Drain and allow to cool slightly.

3.  Line bottom of medium saucepan with 2 or 3 leaves.  Place a leaf shiny-side down on a work surface.  Place a scant tablespoon of filling in the middle.  Fold in sides, then roll up from the stem end, like rolling a burrito.  Place seam-side down in saucepan.  Repeat with remaining filling and leaves, laying the rolls neatly in the saucepan.  When one layer is finished, coat with several lemon slices, then begin another layer.

4.  Find a heat-proof plate that fits snugly in the saucepan.  Invert and place on top of rolls; press down slightly to make sure it fits.  Fill saucepan with water an inch over the plate and bring to a boil.  Lower to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes, until rice is tender.  Drain and serve with lemon wedges for garnish.

Makes about two dozen

Difficulty rating :)

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