When I was young and heading for our trips to turkey, my grandmother would ask me what I would want her to make for when we arrived. The answer was always vegetarian stuffed grape leaves. I could it piles and piles of them and often have a hard time not eating all the filling when I am making them at home.
Invariably, my friend Sunny will call when I am making them and she has been known to tell me “Step away from the filling.. put down the spoon and walk away!”
Its’ so true! I have such a hard time not eating the whole batch!
It takes us about 2 days to make a batch for the cafe. Usually we will make the filling on a Monday and roll them on a Tuesday. Breaking the job into 2 days really helps to not get overtired. These sorts of dishes are usually assembled with your big family around and lots of hands make for fast work. Since we do not have that around here, diving the recipe up really helps, especially on you back!
So lets get started!
- 1 cup rice
- 4-5 onions, small dice
- 3/4 cup olive oil
- 1 medium tomato, seeded & diced
- 1/4 c pine nuts
- 1/4 c currants, soak in warm water
- 1 tbsp mint
- 1 tbsp dill
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 2 tsp salt
- 4 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp allspice
- 1 jar Alafia grape leaves
- Cover rice with warm warm to rinse until water runs clear
Add diced onions, pine nuts, 1 tsp salt to olive oil and brown them on medium heat until soft.
Add drained rice to onion mixture and toast them 10 min.
Add tomato, rest of salt, pepper, sugar,& 3/4 cup of water. Mix & cover with a lid. Turn the head down as soon as it starts boiling. Let simmer for 10-15 min until water is absorbed.
Add spices and herbs and drained currents, mix. Cover w a towel under a lid and let steam for 1/2 hr.
Drain leaves from brine. Bring sauce pot w water to a boil and add leaves to blanch/de-brine the leaves for 5 min.
Grab a wide sauce pan for cooking the stuffed grape leaves. I prefer a wider rather than a taller one because then the stuffed grape leaves can be as much in one layer w the water underneath. I really do not like soggy over cooked dolma. This is what happens when you stack up high into a big pasta pot because you have to add so much water to cook everything. If you can fit a round cooling rack in the pan to rest the dolma on, even better. If you can’t fit a cooling rack, I slice up an onion, a carrot and sometimes a potato to create a layer to lift the dolma out of the water.
Now, take some of the torn leaves and make a layer of leaves for a base to put the finished dolma on to cook.
Place a leaf, vein side up on a plate. Put 1/2 tbsp of filling on the larger end of it, fold the 2 sides over and roll it like a cigarette.
Place them tightly side by side in the pan, alternating directions if you have to go to the second layer. Add lemon juice and 1 cup of water. Put small lid or plate on top. Cover and cook on low for 1 hour, until the water is absorbed. Let cool. Serve with Lemon slices.
One trick that I learned at a cooking class in turkey years ago is to keep the dolma covered after they are done cooking until they are completely cooled. Opening the lid too soon creates a sort of oxidation of the leaves and you use the nice green color. I know it’s hard to resist, but keep the lid on and you will be so grateful that you did when you plate them.