8 cups Water
1 teaspoon Sea Salt
One 16-ounce jar fresh small grape leaves in brineabout 70 leaves
1 cup uncooked short-grain rice
2 medium-large onions,finely chopped
5 tablespoons Olive Oildivided
2 pounds lean ground beefor lamb (or a mixture of both)
1 bunch fresh dillchopped
1 tablespoon Fresh mintchopped
1/4 teaspoon Pepper
2 cups Water
Dolmades are a great vegetarian traditional Greek dish that is popular in every Greek restaurant worldwide. They are made from tasty grapevine leaves that are stuffed with lemon-flavored rice, fresh herbs, and spices. After being stuffed, they are rolled up and boiled until tender. An extraordinary Meze in the Summer months with Ouzo ! They are a bit of an effort to prepare, but I do believe that a meal prepared with love, for loved ones, is the best meal ever.
How to Blanch the Vine Leaves:
- Bring 8 cups of water to a boil in a large pot and add the juice of 1/2 lemon and the salt.
- Carefully unroll the leaves (do not separate them). Turn off the heat and place the leaves in the hot water for 3 minutes.
- Remove the leaves, place them in a bowl and cover with cold water. When cooled, drain in a colander. It is not unusual for many of the outer leaves in the jar to be damaged or to tear. Set these aside for use later.
How to Prepare the Filling:
- Soak the rice for 10 minutes in hot water and drain. (Alternatively, sauté the rice with the onion.)
- Sauté the onions in 1 tablespoon of olive oil until translucent, not browned.
- In a bowl, combine the onions, ground beef, rice, remaining olive oil, dill, mint, juice of 1 lemon, and pepper. Mix well by hand.
How to Fill and Roll the Leaves:
- Gently separate one leaf and place it shiny-side down on a work surface.
- Place a pinch (up to a teaspoon) of the filling on the leaf at the point where the stem joins the leaf.
- Fold the bottom of the leaf up and over the filling, then each side inward in parallel folds, and roll up the leaf.
- The roll should be firm, not tight, as the filling will expand during cooking. Repeat until all the filling has been used.
How to Cook the Stuffed Vine Leaves:
- Because the leaves can burn on the bottom of the pan while the filling cooks, place a plate or wooden souvlaki skewers in the bottom (see tip below). The plate should fit snugly in the pot.
- If you have unused or torn leaves left over, put them on the plate or on top of the skewers.
- Place the dolmathakia on the top, packing them closely together (not squashed), seam side down, so they don’t unroll during cooking. Layer them until they are all in the pot (2 to 3 layers are best, but no more than 4 layers).
- Place several unused leaves over the top.
- Take another plate and place it upside down on top of the dolmathakia, using something to weigh it down (a second plate works well).
- Add the 2 cups of water to the pot and cover. Bring the water to a gentle boil, add the remaining juice from the 1 1/2 lemons, reduce the heat to low and simmer for approximately 50 to 70 minutes.
- When the rice is cooked, they are done. If the rice is not quite cooked through, continue cooking for another 10 minutes and check again.
- The cooking time depends both on the type of pot used and the particular stovetop heating element.
- If you prefer, use a pressure cooker. No plates are needed on top but do use the skewers on the bottom.
- Pack the dolmathakia into the pressure cooker, add the 2 cups of water, close and cook for 15 to 20 minutes at the first pressure mark.
- An appetizer consists of 4 to 5 pieces on a small plate; however, they can also be eaten as a side or main dish (especially when larger leaves are used).
- Serve dolmathakia warm or at room temperature with avgolemono (egg and lemon sauce), lemon wedges, tzatziki or plain yogurt on the side.