You win some, you lose some. This was actually a total disaster project....there I said it. But let me get specific - it tasted GREAT was NOT a headache to make (as you may have thought) and the exotic grape leaves were EASY to find. The problem was that the rice did nnooottt cook packed inside the rolls, meaning I was pacing the kitchen, ready to eat Finn's dry dog food, peaking under the lid every 5 minutes while Nick was trying to be proactive, "What if we try another tighter fitting lid?" or "Lets add more liquid!".
But don't fear, I fixed the original recipe's fatal flaw (fully, not partially, cook the rice before rolling!) and these little stuffed grape leaves are perfect, in every way. A must try, if only to tell me how well it went for you the first time!
Greek food has always been a favorite in the Moriarty (now Moriarty-Waldman) household - eating it reminds me of being little, giggling with Anna, at Four Stars Restaurant in Needham, MA. Four Stars was this family-run Greek joint, covered in mythical Greek murals, dishing up the best egg-lemon soup out there. I think I was ten when it closed so who knows what it felt like to everyone else, specifically the adults.
Dolmas, Stuffed Grape Leaves:
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
- 1 small fennel bulb, halved, cored and diced
- 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
- 1/2 cup pine nuts
- 1 cup brown rice, cooked
- 1 cup vegetable stock
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped dill leaves
- 1/4 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 (8-ounce) jar grape leaves, rinsed and drained *Can find at Whole Foods or larger Stop & Shops
- 2 lemons, juiced
Cook rice as per package instructions.
To make the filling, coat a large saute pan with 1/4 cup of the oil and place over medium heat. Add the onion, fennel and lemon zest and stir until soft, about 10 minutes. Add the pine nuts and cooked rice, saute for 5 minutes, stirring to coat. Scrape the rice mixture into a bowl and add the dill and parsley; season with salt and pepper. Allow to cool. Now on to the grape leaves. Drain the grape leaves, trim the stems (if any). Pat dry with a kitchen towel.
To assemble the dolmas, lay a grape leaf on a work surface, shiny-side down. Put 2 tablespoons (+/- depending on the size of the leaf) of the rice filling near the stem end of the leaf. Fold the stem end over the filling, then fold both sides toward the middle, and roll up into a cigar – it should be snug but not overly tight because the rice will swell once it is fully cooked. Squeeze lightly in the palm of your hand to secure the roll. Repeat with remaining grape leaves and filling.
Place the dolmas in a large Dutch oven or wide deep skillet, seam-side down in a single layer. Pour the cup of broth, remaining olive oil, and the lemon juice over the dolmas, the liquid should reach halfway up the rolls, add some water if necessary. Cover the pan and simmer over low heat for 30 to 40 minutes, until the dolmas are tender when pierced with a fork.
Serve warm, topped with concentrated olive oil/lemon sauce from the bottom of the pan and tzatziki, at room temperature or cool.
1 cup whole Greek yogurt *Greek yogurt is much thicker & creamier than traditional
2 tbs finely chopped cucumber (almost crushed/smooshed)
2 tbs finely chopped dill
zest & juice from 1/2 lemon
1 garlic glove, minced or grated
Pinch sea salt & freshly ground pepper