DOLMADES, of Greek or Middle Eastern origin, they’re grape leaves stuffed typically with lamb, rice, and various other seasonings. Dipped in Tzatziki sauce (cucumber/yogurt) or lemon sauce, they’re a must have on any Greek or Middle Eastern menu. I first had my taste of these delectable little grape leaf packages at an ethnic potluck held during a class I attended. An elderly Greek woman, yes, you’re never too old to attend school, brought in her homemade Dolmades. The students tasted them but weren’t really too keen on eating leaves, but I loved them! The recipe I prepared here is a combination of two recipes that I’ve liked. Feel free to add and omit, ingredients that you my not care for or like.
1 jar Grape leaves
3/4 lb. Ground Beef
1/4 lbs. Ground Lamb
3/4 cup long grain Rice, washed until water runs clear, drain (I used plain ol’ Jasmine rice, since that’s what I had on hand)
1/2 cup Extra virgin Olive oil
1 cup Onion, chopped
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped OR 3 Tbsp. dried
1 Tbsp. dried Mint OR 2 Tbsp. fresh, chopped
1 Tbsp. dried Dill weed
1 tsp. Allspice
4 cloves Garlic, chopped OR 1 1/2 tsp. powder
3 tablespoons pine nuts (optional)
1 1/4 tsp. Salt
1/4 – 1/2 tsp. Black pepper
1/4 tsp. Accent, optional
2 cups chicken broth
2 Lemons, juiced
1 cup Chicken broth
2 Tbsp. Butter
2 Tbsp. All-purpose Flour
1 – 2 Lemons, juiced, depending on your taste
2 Tbsp. Water
Salt, Accent, and ground Black pepper, all to taste
Start by draining and rinsing the leaves from brine several times; allow them to soak in cold water for about 30 minutes. Drain into a colander and set them aside to dry somewhat.
In a large mixing bowl, combine all of the filling ingredients. Stir to mix and combine well.
On the bottom of a heavy deep skillet or pot, layer some of the larger grape leaves down, this helps to keep the bottoms of the Dolmades from scorching.
Begin by making sure that there are no tough stems on the leaves, cut them away if there are any.
On a clean surface, spread out a leaf, stem side UP, and add 1 – 2 Tbsp. (depending on the size of the leaf, you may need less), of the filling on to the center of the leaf. Try forming it into a log the length of the leaf, as shown below.
Next, fold the two flaps over the filling, tucking it under the filling somewhat tightly, as shown below.
Now, fold the left side over the filling, then the right, as shown below.
Now, holding both edges together, ROLL FORWARD, somewhat tightly again, and ending with the edge faced down. Place this onto the layer of leaves in the pot. Continue with the rest until you have filled the bottom of the pot.
Once you’ve fill the first layer, place another layer of leaves to cover the first layer, then continue to roll out the rest of the Dolmades and pile them onto the leaves until all the filling is used up. Now cover the last layer with more grape leaves. Mix the broth and lemon juice together and gently pour it over the leaves.
To keep the Dolmades from floating and unraveling, place a heavy plate over top of the leaves. Bring this up to a boil, and then immdediatey reduce the heat to MEDIUM LOW, cover with a lid and allow it to simmer for 1 1/2 hours. Make sure the broth has not cooked away, if it’s running low, add more broth. Cook the Dolmades until the leaves are tender.
When the cooking time is almost done for the Dolmades, start preparing the Lemon Sauce. Prepare a roux by mixing the flour and butter in a small saucepan, use a whisk to stir the mixture until they form a roux.
Add the broth and continue to stir so that no lumps form, reduce heat to medium low and move onto the next step.
In a bowl, beat the eggs, lemon juice and water, until frothy.
By this time, the roux and chicken broth mixture should have somewhat thickened. Slowly whisk in the egg mixture and continue to stir until it starts to slightly thicken too. Once it has started to thicken, add the salt, accent, and black pepper, all to taste. Stir well to combine.
Allow it to come up to a slight boil and then remove from heat. Taste and adjust seasonings accordingly. I like mine a bit sour and added more lemon juice.
Ladle some of the sauce onto the Dolmades and serve. This sauce could also be used for dipping rather than ladling the sauce. Serve immediately.
NOTE: Other ways of preparing this dish, you can omit the ground beef and lamb, and use ground turkey instead. Use all lamb or all ground beef. The choices are endless.