Dolmades

I live in a primarily Greek neighborhood in NYC, and I can get fresh Dolmades pretty much whenever I want, but since I just moved 12 blocks (and 2 Avenues) away from my absolute favorite place to eat, Opa!, I’ve been eating stuffed grape leaves out of a can for lunch all week–but shockingly, the canned version is just not as good as the freshly prepared ones.  This is my favorite recipe.  I also mixed together some Tzatziki yogurt sauce to go along with my meal–even though traditional dolmades are usually served with lemon slices.  These are great with lemon-roasted potatoes or a nice Greek salad with a hunk of fresh feta.

INGREDIENTS:
2 T extra virgin olive oil
half a finely chopped onion
½ tsp grated lemon zest
¼ C pine nuts
pinch of cinnamon
½ tsp sea salt
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
½ C brown or wild rice, cooked
1 ½  C vegetable stock
2 T finely chopped fresh parsley
1 T finely chopped fresh dill
20 grape leaves (I use jarred)
1/2 lemon, for juice

DIRECTIONS:
Heat olive oil in saucepan.  Add onions and cook for 3-4 minutes.  Add lemon zest, pine nuts, salt, pepper, rice, and 1/2 C vegetable stock.  Stir and cover.  Cook for 10 minutes.

While filling is cooking, remove grape leaves from jar and rinse in a colander.  There is usually a pretty brine-y smell that can carry over to the final product if the leaves aren’t rinsed, so this step is especially important.  I just set them in room temperature water and slosh around a bit with my hands.  Than I transfer to a colander and give a rinse with cold water to finalize things.  If there are stems on the end, now is also a good time to trim them off with scissors or a paring knife.

When the filling is finished cooking stir in chopped parsley and dill.  Now you will fill and wrap the leaves.

Place one grape leaf, seam side up, on a plate or cutting board.  Spoon in a heaping Tablespoon of filling onto the lower 1/2 of the leaf.  Wrap the bottom of the leaf over the filling, tuck in the sides, and roll until closed tightly in a neat little envelope!  Since the rice is already cooked, you don’t have to worry about the dolmades expanding during the final step, so be sure to wrap tightly.

Pack dolmades into a saucepan.  Add 1 C vegetable broth, 1 T olive oil, and juice from 1/2 a lemon  Be sure the dolmades are packed tightly, because as the broth boils the steam will encourage those little guys to unwrap–I try to use the smallest saucepan I can possibly squeeze them in, without having to stack.

Cover the pan and simmer on low until liquid cooks down completely–usually about 20-40 minutes.

Remove from pan and cool for 10 minutes. Enjoy immediately–OR–chill in refrigerator for up to 2 days.  Serve with Tzatziki dressing and fresh lemon slices.

Adapted from The Mediterrasian Way.

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