Greece—Stuffed Grape Leaves

 

Greek Appetizerstuffed grape leaves

Stuffed Grape Leaves
Dolmades
(Makes 12 pieces)

It's easier to buy these, but they're never so good as when you make them yourself. Serve them with a cool, refreshing dollop of yogurt.


12 grape leaves (see sidebar)
1/2 C pine nuts (see sidebar)
4 T olive oil
3 small onions (finely diced)
1 C long-grain white rice (uncooked)
2 C water (divided in half)
2 T fresh dill (chopped) or 1 T dried dill weed
2 T fresh parsley (chopped)
1 T fresh mint (chopped)
1/2 tsp. salt
pinch of ground pepper
1 tsp. sugar
3 T lemon juice
3 T butter (melted)

Leaves: carefully unwrap and dunk leaves, briefly, into a quart of boiling water, a couple at a time, to scald and soften. This makes them easier to work with. (If using fresh leaves, blanch them until soft, up to 1- 2 minutes.) Rinse under cold water and lay on paper towels to dry. Don’t worry about torn leaves: use them to patch holes in the other leaves.

Filling: in a skillet, brown pine nuts till golden (about 2 minutes). Remove them, add oil to pan and saute onions and rice together, till onions are translucent. Return pine nuts to pan, add 1 C hot water, herbs, seasonings and sugar. Cover and cook over a low fire for 10 minutes. Cool.

Assembly: preheat oven to 350. Place a grape leaf, shiny side down, on counter. Spoon 1- 2 tsp. of rice mixture onto stem end, fold sides inward, and begin to roll up, making it about 2 1/2" long, and about 3/4" to 1" thick. Don’t roll too tightly, as the rice will expand during final cooking. Squeeze a little to close up top. Make 12 roll-ups.

Cook: layer the bottom of a wide, ovenproof skillet with 4 flat leaves and place roll-ups, 1/2" apart, on top of leaves. (This will prevent them from sticking to pan.) Cover roll-ups with 1 C hot water, add lemon juice and butter. Weigh stuffed leaves down by placing an ovenproof plate on top. Cover skillet with lid and place in oven for 30-40 minutes.*

Serve: Cool stuffed leaves; serve chilled with yogurt and lemon wedges. (If you make roll-ups ahead of time, pour a little olive oil and lemon juice over them and keep covered with plastic wrap.)

* Some people like the rice stuffing to be a slightly underdone, for a chewy, crispy texture. They'll cook leaves for 30 min. Others prefer well-cooked, tender rice, so will cook leaves for 40 min. Experiment for cooking times to get the texture you like.

| See more Greek recipes |

Tips & Glossary

You may not have a number of ingredients used in Greek cooking in your spice shelf, but you can find them at Mid-Eastern food stores. So to avoid frustration, make a list of the items you need before trying out the recipes.

Filo: aka phyllo, paper-thin sheets of raw, unleavened flour dough. Purchase frozen in most grocery stores and follow directions on package for thawing. When working with a sheet, keep others covered with a damp towel to prevent drying out.

Grape Leaves: Grape leaves are sold canned in salted oil. Rinse off the salt before using. If you want, prepare your own: find fresh, tender young leaves and plunge them for 1 minute into boiling water (with 1 or 2 T lemon juice). Then proceed with recipe. After blanching, you can freeze them for later use. Here’s how: blanch as above, dunk in iced water, pat dry with towels, and seal in an air-tight plastic bag. They're safe for 6 months, but use quickly when thawed.

Nutmeg: Use small whole nuts and store them, tightly covered, in a dry dark area. Grate what you need using the smallest grating edge or grind in a food processor. What a difference from store bought nutmeg!

Pine Nuts: edible seeds of pine trees used in many Greek dishes. Before cooking, release flavor by lightly browning in a heated skillet

Skewers: Use metal or wooden skewers for kebobs. If wooden, soak 30 minutes before using to prevent them from catching on fire.

Rosewater: distilled from rose petals and used to flavor Mid-Eastern and Asian cooking. You can make your own. But, seriously, why would you? Purchase it at Asian or Mid-Eastern stores.

Semolina: aka farina or Cream of Wheat; a coarsely ground wheat grain. You also know it as couscous. If made from durum wheat, it is used to make pasta.

Tarama: poor-man's caviar. From carp roe, it is pinkish-orange and is what (along with food dye) gives taramasalata its lovely color. Buy it jarred in Mid-Eastern food stores.

 

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