Dolmas

 

Dolmas with hummus, pickles, beets, hard-boiled eggs, molded shredded kohlrabi and carrots, and a green salad…

When the heat kicks in ’round these parts, Ionah’s response, lately, has been — along with sipping San Pellegrino water on ice with a splash of coconut vinegar and a lime wedge — to browse the internet for real estate listings in Maine. A beautiful country in the summer. Cheaper than Colorado, but those massive wood piles out back scare the Charlies out of me. My response is to take a leaf from the Greeks, who know their heat, and make a batch of dolmas — stuffed grape leaves.

preserved lemon…
fresh dill with spring onion…

They’re usually stuffed with rice— Italian Arborio or short grain brown rice works well— and often ground beef or lamb. I season the cooked rice with fresh dill, sautéed onion, preserved lemon, pine nuts, currants and sometimes green olives. Then I stuff the rice mixture in brined grape leaves and bake for 45 minutes in chicken or vegetable stock.

a large trumpet mushroom…

You can cook them on a stove top, but I prefer the oven — early morning works best to let the kitchen cool down and once they’re ready, store them in the fridge and eat them whenever you need a cooling snack. Good on their own or great dipped in yogurt mint sauce, or make a meal of them by adding hummus, radishes, cucumbers, salted tomato slices, hard-boiled egg, a wedge of feta cheese, a dish of olives, boiled beets, a young lettuce salad. The list goes on.

I diced the meaty stem and kept the top for an omelet…
diced spring onions with trumpet mushroom, sumac and Aleppo pepper…

You can buy grape leaves brined in a jar and ready to go at any Greek or international market. Or, if you comb your neighborhood for unkept vines, equipped with nothing but a Chinese scissors and a used plastic bag, you might liberate enough leaves to make a small batch. Or, conversely, you could knock and ask before you pick on private land.

My Chinese scissors and used plastic bag, probably Chinese also…

I planted a grape-vine in the garden years ago but never thought untill now to use the vine leaves for dolmas. if you have access to an unsprayed grape-vine, it’s the way to go. Best to harvest them in late spring before the leaves get too big and tough.

blanched grape leaves left to drain…

Gather 60 leaves about 4 inches wide. Cut off the stems and plunge a bunch of 6 at a time into boiling liberally salted water for about 10 seconds. Immerse in cold water, put them in a strainer and drain on paper towels. Continue until done. Roll in tight bunches of twenty or so and pack in a freezer bag and freeze. I usually end up with three bunches.

When you’re ready to go, cook a cup of rice and add your seasonings— for this batch I used sautéed diced onion and trumpet mushroom, walnuts, fresh dill,  sumac, Aleppo pepper, preserved lemon and some mint pesto that was hanging around.

rice with walnuts, preserved lemon, mint pesto, onion, Aleppo pepper and sumac…

Drop a tablespoon on a spread-out upturned leaf (shiny side down) and fold the sides over each other and wrap an end and roll it tight. It might take a few tries, stick with it, if it gets a little tedious, put on some music, but not Zorba the Greek. Try Radiohead instead, the intensity helps concentration.

Fill a baking dish snugly with the dolmas and pour hot chicken stock all over. You don’t have to cover, but come close. Cover the dish with foil and bake at 400F/200C for 45 minutes or untill the stock has evaporated. Cool it down in the fridge.

For twenty leaves I cooked one cup of rice mixed with perhaps a quarter cup each of sautéed diced onions and mushrooms.  To this add a tablespoon of chopped preserved lemon. Same for walnuts, finely diced dill and (optional) pesto. Add half a teaspoon of sumac and Aleppo pepper. Salt if you need it. The lemons provided me with enough. Mix it up and stuff into grape leaves. I didn’t keep exact documentation here but you get the idea.

 

 

8 thoughts on “Dolmas

  1. Haha! Tell my sister I’m looking into going back to RI. At least we’ll be closer if you guys end up in Maine. Plus there’s lots more boating to do up there! When my grape leaves come out I always have Eastern Europeans stop by to pick them and I don’t mind sharing!

  2. Hugh, your authenticity and quality shine again. Love it brother, keep it coming. There is no better inspiration.

  3. Hugh, I really enjoyed reading and viewing your work. Great intro to blogs for me. My mom used to make Dolmas, but did not use the presearved lemon or yogurt. (Okay, this was the late 50’s…TV dinners were the new rage.) It will be fun to try to make your version. I can anticipate the tang. Great to meet you on the North Platte. Hope you caught trout at Delany Buttes. -Katie

    1. Thanks for reading Katie. There’s an infinite world of blogs out there. Good to meet you too. I met more mosquitos than trout at the lake! North Platte river was a blast!

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