Friday, May 7, 2010

Dolmades (Stuffed Grape Leaves)

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I’m rather picky about my dolmades. My aunt and uncle lived in Greece for several years, so the first time I tried stuffed grape leaves, they were authentic Greek ones. Instantly, I was hooked. In Greece you can buy them in little tin cans, kinda like the size of a small can of tuna. Just stick a can in the fridge and they make an amazing snack anytime. Ever since then I have searched in vain in the United States for that same authentic taste. Any time I go to a Mediterranean restaurant that have grape leaves on the menu I always order them, each time hoping they will measure up to the ones from Greece. Each time I’ve been let down, to this day I still haven’t been able to find comparable ones. I always assumed they would be too difficult to make myself, but recently I found a recipe I thought I would enjoy and decided to give it a go. The result was pretty good. Still not as good as the real deal, but definitely better than the ones sold at Whole Foods. The recipe isn’t too difficult, just a bit time consuming. I found it enjoyable to stuff and roll the leaves. I would definitely make these again when I have another craving.

Dolmades (Stuffed Grape Leaves)
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½ c extra-virgin olive oil, separated into two ¼ c
1 onion, finely chopped
1 lemon, zested
½ c pine nuts
1 c long-grain rice (I used a wild rice medley)
1½ c vegetable broth
¼ c finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 (8-ounce) jar grape leaves, rinsed and drained (by the pickles/olives in most grocery stores)
2 lemons, juiced

To make the filling:
Coat a large sauté pan with 1/4 cup EVOO and place over medium heat. Add the onion and lemon zest, stir until soft, about 10 minutes. Add the pine nuts and rice, sauté for 2 minutes, stirring to coat. Pour in ½ cup of the veggie broth and lower the heat. Simmer until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is al dente, about 10 minutes. Transfer rice mixture into a bowl and add parsley; season with salt and pepper. Allow to cool.

For the grape leaves:
Bring a big pot of water to a simmer. Blanch the grape leaves in the hot water for 5 minutes until pliable. Drain then trim the stems and any hard veins from the leaves. Pat dry with paper towels.

To assemble:
Lay a grape leaf on a work surface, shiny-side down. Put 2 tablespoons of the rice filling near the stem end of the leaf. Fold the stem end over the filling, then fold both sides in 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.

To Cook:
Preheat oven to 350F
Place stuffed grapes leaves seam side down in a single layer in a large baking dish. Pour 1 c of broth, remaining ¼ c olive oil, and the lemon juice over the leaves. The liquid should reach halfway up the rolls, add more broth or water if necessary. Cover and bake until they are tender when pierced with a fork, mine went about 35 min. Serve warm, at room temperature, or cold. I prefer to let mine sit in the fridge overnight eat them cold.

Source: adapted from Tyler Florence via Food Network

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