IMBB- My Fat Greek Dumpling

by Jeanne


It’s time for Is My Blog Burning? 7, the group food blogging virtual event. The theme for this round is Your Just the Cutest Little Dumpling and is hosted by Jarrett someone who has changed my life through his Food Porn Watch.

In keeping with this week’s theme while also participating in my first IMBB Dumpling quest I chose to prepare dolmathes—grape leaves stuffed with seasoned rice. Something that looked relatively easy. What I found out is that there is an art to the making these Greek-style dumplings. With a little perseverance this are a crowd pleaser and will make you like a savvy culinary hero.

Anya Von Bremzen, in The Greatest Dishes! provides a historical context to the dolmathes or more familiar name dolmas:

“The vast stuffed-vegetable empire encompasses the entire Turkic and Arab-speaking world, stretching from the Middle East to the eastern Mediterranean to the Balkans into Eastern Europe. The nomenclature varies from language to language and often from dish to dish, with the most common term being a variant of dolma. Derived, appropriately, from the Turkish word for “stuffed,” dolma can denote a specific dish of filled grape leaves (such as the Greek dolmathes) or refer to stuffed vegetables in general, as in the Iranian domeh or Armenian tolma.”

A popular appetizer in Greece grape leaves can be stuffed a number of ways–meat and then topped off with a hot lemony egg-based avgolemono sauce or stuffed with bulgur. In northern and mainland Greece, they are typically served cold with a more mixture of spice-enriched rice and pine nuts.

The first recipe, which will go unacknowledged, was a disaster. The cooking time was incorrect—too short and the rice was a crunchy texture. The second go around, from Ethnic Cuisine by Elisabeth Rozin was far superior. Why I strayed from this consistently rewarding book is a mystery to me.

After cooking these twice, I thought that these would be very impressive at a picnic or bbq as they can be prepared a day ahead, left to cool in the cooking pot and stored in the refrigerator overnight allowing the flavors to deepen. I brought the final presentation, accompanied by tzatziki as a dressing, to an Olympic opening ceremonies Greek-themed dinner party last week.

Upon first approaching this task all the recipes made about 30-40 dolmathes. I thought, “What will I do with 40 stuffed grape leaves?” After the time consuming effort of blanching a few dozen grape leaves for about 2-3 minutes each (depending on size) to remove the briny taste you’ll want to be have something to show for your effort. Plus, if you do have leftovers they keep for several days making for a great lunch or dinner along with pita and greens.


Stuffed Grape Leaves

Excerpted from Ethnic Cuisine by Elizabeth Rozin30-40 grape leaves

1/2 cups olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup raw long-grain rice
1/ 4 cup pine nuts
3 Tablespoons tomato paste
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/ 4 teaspoon salt (increase to 1/2 teaspoon if using fresh, uncured grape leaves)
3/4 cup boiling water
Lemon wedges for garnish

Rinse the grape leaves in warm water and drain in a colander. In a medium saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over moderate heat. Add onion and sauté until limp. Add rice and pine nuts and sauté, stirring 3-4 minutes. Add tomato paste, lemon juice, cinnamon, salt and boiling water. Cover and cook over low heat 15-20 minutes, or until rice is tender and all liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for one hour.

Placing a grape leaf right side up in front of you, place a heaping teaspoon of filling in a horizontal line along the middle of the leaf. Roll stem end of leaf up over filling, then fold in sides, then fold over top. Squeeze the stuffed rolled grape leaf gently in your hand; this will help keep it closed. Continue stuffing grape leaves until the entire filling is used.

Pour 2 tablespoons olive oil in the bottom of a large shallow pot or frying pan. Place the stuffed grape leaves close together in a single layer in the pot. Pour over remaining olive oil. Place a large heavy plate or flat casserole cover over the grape leaves to keep them from unfolding while cooking.

Cover the pot and cook over very low heat for 1 hour. Let cool with plate on top of them. Remove from pan and refrigerate. (These are best made a day or two or up to a week ahead.) Bring to room temperature before serving. Serve garnished with lemon wedges.

Makes 30-40 stuffed grape leaves.