The only thing we may love more than Greek sandals is Greek food. And we like our food the way we like our sandals — made with love, rich & natural ingredients, and meraki, or a Greek word for doing something with soul and creativity. What follows is not your traditional Greek recipe for stuffed grape/ vine leaves. Rather, our mom, Aspasia’s ‘dolmades’ lie somewhere between the Greek version and warak enab, the Lebanese version. Unlike the traditional Greek dolmades, they're made with tomatoes, are even more lemon-y, and have a lot more parsley, onions and herbs in general. Growing up Greek having spent half our childhood in the Middle East, this is our perfect blend of cuisines!
A little history
Stuffed grape leaves are one of those dishes that countries fight to claim 'origin rights' over. Dolmades (vτολμάδες) is a word taken directly from the Turkish word "dolma", which means something stuffed, but refers to a whole host of different stuffed vegetable dishes. Recipes for stuffed eggplant, for example, have been found in Medieval Arabic cookbooks and, in Ancient Greek cuisine, fig leaves stuffed with sweetened cheese were called thrion. Today, they can be found from Balkan to Central Asian cuisines. Frankly, we don't care who made them first, we're just grateful they exist!
1 jar grape leaves in brine, drained (about 40-60 leaves) OR fresh
1 ½ cups uncooked short grain white rice
4 tomatoes (blanched and chopped) or 1 can of organic chopped tomatoes
1 ½ red onions, chopped
5 green onions, chopped
1/2 cups fresh parsley, chopped
2 Tbsp fresh mint, chopped
1/2 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper
To use for cooking:
2-3 potatoes, sliced
2-3 large tomatoes, chopped or sliced
3/4 cup olive oil
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1. You can either chop the parsley, mint and chopped tomatoes or put them together in a blender and pulse.
2. Saute onions, green onions in generous amount of olive oil. When wilted, add parsley, mint and chopped tomatoes, simmer for a couple of minutes
3. Add rice and partially cook a little until some of the liquid has been absorbed. Add salt and pepper.
4. Now all you need to do is wiggle those stubborn grape leaves out of the jar and begin wrapping them up. To do so, place leaf backside up, so the hard part of the vein is facing you. Place a spoonful of filling by the stem end. If you use fresh, wash them well and blanch them in water. Begin to roll the leaf from the stem ends. After about one roll, fold the left and right sides in. Continue rolling. You don’t need to make them super tight because the rice needs room to expand as it absorbs the liquid.
5. Add potato slices to bottom of pot in which you’ve added a little olive oil. You may want to add some of the broken leaves on top of the potatoes but it’s not necessary.
6. Stack the rolled grape leaves tightly together, making one neat layer on top of another. Keep rolling and rolling.
7. When you've finished rolling and stacking them in a pot, top the stack with tomato slices or chopped tomatoes.
8. In a separate bowl, pour the 3/4 cup of olive oil and 3/4 cup of lemon juice and whisk them together with salt. Pour this mixture onto the grape leaves.
9. Cover the stack with a plate to keep the grape leaves from floating and unrolling, then top off with a lid. Simmer gently for about about 1 ½ to 2 hours or more if you use jar grape leaves but if fresh, less. This will allow the potatoes at the bottom of the pot to get a nice crust. (Cut one open to check). I've seen several recipes cook them for upwards of three hours, so don’t despair if yours needs longer.