Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Cold grape leave dolmas (vegetarian)

This is a delicious appetizer that we like to serve next to Ramadan iftar, it is not a Yemeni tradition, it is just our family tradition that we just started.

I never really found a dolma recipe that I liked. After much trial and error, I decided to make my own recipe knowing what works and what doesn't work about the recipes that I have tried before. For example, a lot of recipes don't ask for garlic or something sour for the filling. So my recipe has the garlic and the tomato paste to give those necessary flavors. Also the rolling and cooking process has always never worked for me until now. One recipe asked for only 1 cup water and an another recipe asked for too much water, so you can imagine one came out barely cooked and dried and the other came out barely cooked and watery. Another important thing is to put a heaping tablespoon of the filling in each leaf. My friend gave me bad advice, telling me that since rice expands there is need for only 1 teaspoon of filling. That didn't work out as I ended up with half-empty rolls. But hopefully this is the only recipe that you will need whenever you have a hankering for dolmas.

3 3/4 cups long-grain rice (like Uncle Ben's)
1 1/2 cup fresh mint, rinsed and chopped
1 1/2 cup fresh parsley, rinsed and chopped
1 large onion, minced
3 medium tomatoes, finely diced
5 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
5 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 Tbsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
2 Tbsp dried spearmint
3 Tbsp olive oil

Wash rice and soak for 30 minutes. Meanwhile mix the rest of the filling ingredients.
Set a pot half-filled with water to boil. Sort out the unusable leaves, blanch them in the boiling water, and then place on bottom of the pot you plan to cook the dolmas in. Then place the rest of the leaves in the boiling water, and boil for 30 seconds, carefully separating them with tongs so water can enter between them. Drain leaves well.

After the rice finished soaking, drain very well and add to the filling mixture. Mix well.

Rolling dolmas:

Cut off the the stem of the leaf. Place glossy side down on a plate. Place a tablespoon of the filling on the bottom half. Don't be afraid to put a lot, we want it packed. Than fold the sides diagonally towards the center over the filling, repeat this again and then sides horizontally, then proceed to tightly roll the lump with the filling upwards. Place in pan and proceed to the next leaf.
Step-by-step photo instructions are available at Greek Recipes with May Lerios: Dolmadakia or Dolmades

When finished with the grape leaves, mix

1/4 cup of olive oil
juice of 2 lemons
1 tsp salt
1 cup water

and pour of dolmas. Then pour enough water to barely reach the top of the dolmas. Place a heavy plate that is smaller than the pan so that it fits directly on top of the dolmas, then place a heavy weight. I used my heavy brass mortar. Bring to boil on medium heat and then lower heat to low. Cook for 1 hour or when more than half of the water is gone. Check if cooked, leaf should break apart easily. If not add about 1/2 cup water that is flavored with salt and lemon juice. Cook for up to 2 1/2 hours, replenishing juice when needed, 1/2 cup at a time. Let dolmas sit in juice and cool. Store in tupperware and refrigerate. Dolmas are best the next day.


Kitchen Flavours said...

Wow something new to me. Looks gr8.

Yasmeen said...

I made these dolmas once long ago, it was delicious. Your recipe here is tempting me to try again.I just have to buy the grape leaves next time I go to the Middle Eastern store.