Dolmades (Stuffed grape leaves)

Last year Buffalo Street Farm was awarded an NEIdeas grant to install a large dessert grape vineyard on their property.  The grant covered cost of land acquisition, trellising equipment, irrigation equipment, and the plants themselves.  This has been a big project on the farm and while the first grapes are at least a year away yet, we can still get a little something this year.  Below is a basic explanation of how to prepare the leaves for stuffing and a recipe for Greek Dolmades that we found here: http://whatscookingamerica.net/Vegetables/StuffedGrapeLeaves.htm  They also have a great recipe for and Egyptian Stuffed Grape Leaves and Stuffed Grape Leaves with Gorgonzola and Olives

Preparing the leaves:

To prepare the leaves you will cook them in either hot water for several minutes (10-15 minutes) or in a brine (4:1 water to salt) for only 1-5 minutes.  Then pat dry with a paper towel and trim off any stems and large veins.  It’s at this point you can freeze the leaves if you want to use them later.

Traditional Dolmades:

Rice stuffing:

3 tablespoons currants
Warm water
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons raw pine nuts
1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
1 cup long-grain white rice
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 cups hot water
Juice of 1 freshly-squeezed lemon
2 tablespoons finely-chopped fresh dill weed or fresh mint leaves
2 tablespoons finely-chopped fresh parsley leaves
Salt and freshly-ground pepper to taste

Soak currants in warm water for approximately 15 to 20 minutes; drain and set aside.

To make the stuffing, heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add pine nuts; stir and cook the pine nuts for about 2 minutes or until they are golden brown. Add pine nuts, onion, white rice, sugar, cinnamon, and hot water; stir the mixture, cover the pot, and cook gently for approximately 15 to 20 minutes or until the water has been absorbed. Remove from heat and stir in the lemon juice, dill weed, and parsley.

Season to taste with salt and pepper. Let the stuffing cool for 30 to 40 minutes before stuffing the prepared grape leaves.

Stuffing the grape leaves:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare Rice Stuffing.

open grape leaf
To stuff the leaves, start with your largest leaves. Take a leaf and carefully spread it on a flat plate or pan with the veins facing upward to you (leaf shiny side down). If the leaf is torn or has a hole in it, take a reserved damaged leaf and use it as a patch, place the leaf over the hole.

 

 

 

grape leaf with stuffing
Place approximately 1 to 2 tablespoons of the Rice Stuffing near the stem end of the leaf (the amount of stuffing will depend on the size of the leaves).

Press the stuffing into a small sausage-like shape.

 

 

folding grape leaves

folding grape leaves

folded grape leaves

Fold the stem end of the leaf over the filling, then fold both sides toward the middle, and then roll up into a cigar shape (it should be snug but not overly tight because the rice will swell once it is fully cooked and could burst). The rolls should be cylindrical (about 2 inches long and 1/2 inch thick)

stuffed grape leavesSqueeze lightly in the palm of your hand to secure the rolls.

Repeat with the remaining grape leaves and filling.

Line the bottom of a large heavy oven-proof dish or pan with half of the remaining grape leaves (this prevent sticking and is also a good way to use any torn or small leaves). Arrange the stuffed grape rolls on top of the leaves, seam-side down, packing them close together. Make a new layer as you fill the baking pan. Two or three layers is fine (it is very difficult to cook evenly if you make more than four layers of rolls). NOTE: Don’t cramp the rolls together as they won’t cook well – also don’t leave too much space between them as they will unravel.

When the bottom is completely covered, place the remaining grape leaves over the top. Pour the 2 cups hot water, olive oil, and lemon juice over them. Weigh the stuffed grapes rolls down with an ovenproof plate turned upside down (one smaller than the circumference of the pan). Cover the baking dish with a lid. On the stovetop, over medium heat, bring the liquid just to a boil; remove baking dish to the oven and cook approximately 45 to 60 minutes or until the grape rolls are tender and the water has been absorbed (there should be little or no trace of water, and only a bit of oil in the pot – some of the leaves may have tiny black specks, or maybe completely black – this is ok). Remove from oven.

Transfer the stuffed grape rolls to a serving dish. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Serve chilled or at room temperature, garnished with lemon wedges. Serve with Yogurt Cucumber Sauce.

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