And the day came when I finally decided to prepare one of my favorite dishes: Greek dolmades, stuffed vine leaves. I’ve been wanting to try this recipe for a long time, ever since I first had them, during a trip to Athens, Greece (in 2005), and later in Crete (in 2015). I wanted to prepare them at home, but finding vine leaves was something of a challenge. To begin with, you can’t find them in supermarkets or in farmers’ markets where I live. I also do not know anybody who owns or works in a vineyard so I could ask them to provide me with some leaves.
But then, two months ago, while spending a weekend in a rural house in Portugal, we were surrounded by vineyards and I asked for permission to bring some leaves back home with me. They’ve been in the freezer until I was ready to prepare the dolmades.
20 vine leaves + 10 for wrapping the dolmades
20 gr chopped scallions (about 6 tbsp)
One cup of rice
4 tbsp chopped fresh dill
2 tbsp chopped fresh mint
1 tbsp lemon juice
25 ml extra virgin olive oil (2 tbsp)
Wash the vine leaves, cut the stems and blanch them in batches for a few seconds in a pot with abundant boiling water. Use a skimmer spoon to take them out of the water and place them in a big bowl with ice-cold water so as to halt the cooking process. In another bowl, place the uncooked rice, the dill, the mint, the scallions, half of the oil, the salt, and the pepper, and mix well.
Spread out one vine leaf flat on a smooth surface, with its shiny side looking down and veiny side up. Put a tablespoon of rice on the base of the central nerve (see photo), fold the sides around the filling, and roll the leaf up (see photo). Repeat this with the rest of the leaves.
Line the inside of a big pot with the other vine leaves and place all the rolled-up dolmades inside, seam down. Pour the rest of the oil, the lemon juice and then cover them with boiling water. Once this is done, place a heavy dish on top, to prevent them from unraveling. Cover, bring to a boil, lower the heat, and let them cook for about 35-40 minutes. Remove from heat, allow them to cool, and put them on a serving dish.
In Greece, you would have them as mezedes (a tapa or appetizer) but you can also prepare tzatziki or a savory yogurt dip to accompany them. If you add minced meat, you have dolmas, the Turkish version of the dolmades.
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