Recipe: Stuffed Grape Leaves

Dolmades, or rolled grape leaves stuffed with seasoned rice, were first eaten during the height of the Ottoman Empire. Today, they are enjoyed all around the world, but especially in Russia and Iran and throughout South Asia. They’re best served cold, so make them a couple of hours before you serve them to allow time for chilling. They keep for several days after cooking, so they’re a great party appetizer that you can prepare ahead of time.

1 cup long grain rice, washed
4 cups chopped onions
1 cup olive oil (or vegetable oil)
1/2 to 3/4 cup fresh chopped parsley
2 1/2 Tbsp. dried dill
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup pine nuts
Salt and pepper, to taste
50 grape leaves (canned or from a jar in Brine)

• Combine all the ingredients except for the grape leaves. Mix well. Taste and correct seasoning, if necessary.
• Rinse the grape leaves in warm water and drain. Cut any woody stems off. Pat dry.
• To assemble, spread a leaf with the filling, underside up. Place 1 to 2 teaspoons (depending on the size of leaf) of rice filling near the stem end of the leaf. Fold the stem bottom-end up over the filling, fold the sides toward the filling in the center, and then roll the leaf into a small cylindrical package, being careful not to fold too tightly, as the rice will expand during cooking. If rolled too loosely, the roll will fall apart.
• Place the dolmades in a large Dutch oven or a wide sauté pan, with the seam-side down. Cover with a heavy plate or baking dish (to prevent the leaves from shifting) and add water to cover to the level of the plate. Bring to a boil and lower the heat. Simmer for 1 hour, or until the rice is tender. Add more water if necessary.
• Remove the plate and refrigerate until chilled.
• Serve with tahini dip, vegan tzatziki, or lemon dip.

Accompaniment: Vegan Tzatziki
350 g. soft silken tofu
1 1/2 tsp. dried dill
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 small cucumber, unpeeled and cut into chunks
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 1/2 tsp. tahini
1 large or 2 medium garlic cloves
2-3 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. white or black pepper
2 Tbsp. fresh mint (if adding chili paste, omit the mint)

• Blend everything together in blender. The dip can be made 1 day ahead of time and then refrigerated until serving.

Makes approximately 50 dolmades

*Optional: Add 2 teaspoons chili paste for an extra kick.

Note: If you can get soy yogurt and Tofutti sour cream, replace the tofu with 1 cup of each yogurt and sour cream.

Posted by Jason Baker