Plate of Dolmades

Midday Mezze
Readers who have followed this blog for a while might remember a post I wrote in September of last year about crawdad lunch. For those of you who are not familiar, crawdad lunch is what my family calls a lunch that consists of salami, cheese, crackers, and maybe some fruit. It has evolved over the years to something a little more sophisticated.

I still have crawdad lunches—especially when the weather is warmer. In fact, I had one yesterday, but this was not your five-year-old’s crawdad lunch. My lunch consisted of pita bread instead of crackers, salami, grapes, mixed pitted olives, some hummus, and, lastly, dolmades.

If you are not familiar with dolmades, they are cigar-shaped stuffed grape leaves and they are yummy. They can be made the classic way with meat but are just as tasty in their vegetarian form. Dolmades can be eaten on their own with a squeeze of lemon or dipped in some tzatziki for a pop of tartness. Either way, they make for a perfect lunch.

I made these over the weekend for my daughter who is having a busy week and wanted to food prep her lunches. Dolmades are a great choice because they will last 3 to 4 days in an airtight container in the fridge. And, they have a bit of everything you need to get through the day—carbs, protein, veggies, and of course, flavor. They are also extremely portable for those beautiful Spring days when you want to be outside and need to pack a lunch.

This recipe makes quite a few, so feel free to half it.

Dolmades Recipe
Adapted from The Mediterranean Dish
Yields 60

This flavorful, traditional Greek dish is made by stuffing grape leaves with a delicious mixture of rice, meat, and loads of fresh herbs and warming spices. Then they are cooked in a bright lemony broth.

1 16-oz jar grape leaves in brine (about 60 to 70 leaves)
1-1/2 cup short grain rice, soaked in plenty of water for 15 minutes, then drained
Extra virgin olive oil, preferably Greek
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
12 ounces lean ground beef or lamb
Kosher salt
Black pepper
1 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup fresh dill
1/2 cup fresh mint
1 to 2 tomatoes sliced into rounds
About 4 cups or more low-sodium chicken broth or water
Juice of 2 lemons

Prep the grape leaves
Remove the grape leaves from the jar and discard the brine. Rinse the grape leaves well and place them in a colander to drain. You will remove the stems later.

Soak the rice
Soak the rice in plenty of water until you can easily break one grain of rice (about 15 to 20 minutes). Drain well.

Cook the meat
While the rice is soaking, heat 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil in a large skillet. Add the onions and cook briefly, tossing until translucent (about 2 minutes). Add the meat and cook till fully browned, stirring occasionally. Drain any excess fat, then season the meat with kosher salt, pepper, and spices. Toss to combine. Remove from the heat and set it aside to cool.

Make the filling
In a mixing bowl, combine the meat, drained rice, and fresh herbs. Season them lightly with kosher salt. Add a generous drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and mix so that everything is well incorporated.

Prep the Dutch oven
Lightly brush the bottom of a heavy Dutch oven with extra virgin olive oil. Arrange a few grape leaves in the bottom (Use the leaves that don’t look too great here.) Make three layers to protect the stuffed leaves from scorching later. Top the leaf layers with the sliced tomatoes.

Form the rolls
Place one grape leaf at a time on a cutting board with the textured (rough) side facing you. Remove the stems if necessary. Take 1 heaping teaspoon of the filling and place it in the center of the leaf, then fold the sides over the filling and roll like you would an egg roll. Place the roll in the Dutch oven seam side down.

Repeat with the remaining grape leaves until you are out of stuffing, neatly arranging the grape leaves in a row in your prepared pot, covering the circumference of the pot. You will have multiple layers.

Cook the rolls
Place a small plate inverted on top of the rolls. Boil the broth or water and pour it over the grape leaves. The top layer should be somewhat covered. Add a little more liquid if needed.

Cover the pot with the lid and cook over medium heat until the liquid has been absorbed (about 30 minutes). Uncover and remove the plate, then pour in the lemon juice. Cover again with the lid without the plate and cook on low heat or until fully cooked (about 30 to 45 more minutes).

Allow the rolls to rest
When rolls are done, remove them from heat and allow them to rest uncovered before serving (20 to 30 minutes).

To serve
Add a generous drizzle of good-quality extra virgin olive oil, and transfer to a serving platter.

Serve with a side of Greek Tzatziki sauce or plain yogurt and wedges of lemon.

Comments are closed.