Pictures by David Everett
I don’t know how this keeps happening, but each new week seems to bring an even better recipe than the week before! Just look at these little beauties! What you see here are dolmas – juicy, rolled grape leaves stuffed with ground beef, rice, and spices. They can be served warm or cold with a tangy, flavorful yogurt sauce… most likely warm, because if your house is anything like mine not many will actually make it to the fridge!
Dolmas can be found all throughout the Middle East; they are not strictly from Afghanistan. Every region has its own special way of making them. Some are with meat, others without. We made ours with grape leaves, but you could also make them in peppers if you want! In any shape or form, this savory, herby dish would make a good snack, appetizer, or meal. They may be small, but nobody said you can’t have as many as you want!
First, prepare your grape leaves. I bought mine in a jar, ready to use. All I had to do was separate and rinse them! It may be necessary to trim off excess stems as well. You will also need to pre-soak 1/2 cup basmati rice in hot water for 30 minutes.
After you’re prepped everything, take a tablespoon of canola oil and sauté one medium onion.
Add in your soaked rice.
Cook the rice and onions for about 3-5 minutes.
Pour in a cup or two of water (just enough to cover the rice), cover with a lid, and simmer over low heat until the rice is half-way done. This should take about 10-15 minutes.
The water should be mostly evaporated. If there’s still a good bit left, uncover the pan and boil off the rest of the water. When you’re ready, add in your spices.
Mix it up well!
The next step is to mix your rice with the raw meat.
If you’re eager like me, you can just dive in and start mushing it all together, burning your hands every now and then (that may not have been the best idea). If you’re more sensible, you should wait a few minutes until the rice cools or just use a spoon to combine the two. You choose!
When you’re ready to roll, lay out one grape leaf (vein side up, shiny side down) and place about a tablespoon of filling in the middle, towards the bottom.
Fold up the bottom…
fold in the sides…
make sure everything’s in place and…
As you can see, this recipe made just about 40 dolmas. We had some extra leaves left over, which is great! We’ll use them in the next step.
Grab a big pan and coat the entire bottom with the extra leaves. I chose to set aside small and unsightly leaves for this part… the big, pretty ones are better for rolling!
Arrange all your dolma in one, big layer on top of the grape leaves. Cover with water, top off the pan with a lid, and simmer for 40 minutes. Add more water as necessary – you don’t want the dolma to dry out while they cook.
While you wait for the dolma, mix up your yogurt sauce (very similar to last week’s recipe) with one cup plain yogurt, one chopped garlic clove, one tablespoon of lemon juice, and salt to taste. It’s really easy to make! Then, when the 40 minutes are up, remove the dolma from the pan. Arrange them on a plate with the yogurt sauce and serve immediately for a warm, delicious dinner. Or, you can let them cool and pop them in the fridge for a cold snack later! Nooshe jaan!
1/2 c basmati rice
1 lb ground beef
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 tbsp dried dill
1 tbsp chopped fresh mint
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
about 40 grape leaves
1 c. plain greek yogurt
1 clove garlic
1 tbsp lemon juice
salt to taste
1. Pre-soak rice in hot water for 30 minutes.
2. Separate, rinse, and trim excess stems off of grape leaves. Set aside.
3. Sauté onion in oil until tender and translucent (5-7 minutes).
4. Add soaked rice. Cook 3 minutes.
5. Add 1-2 cups of water (enough to cover rice), cover pan, and simmer until the rice is halfway cooked (10-15 minutes).
6. Turn off heat, drain or boil away extra water, and stir in spices. Let cool for 5 minutes.
7. Add rice to raw ground beef and mix well to combine.
8. Lay out a grape leaf, vein-side up/shiny-side down. Place one tablespoon of beef-rice filling in the middle of the leaf, near the bottom. Fold the leaf up from the bottom, in from the sides, and roll up into a little log shape. Continue rolling until all the filling has been used up. Reserve small and torn leaves for later.
9. Line a large pan with leftover/rejected leaves. Place all the dolma in a single layer on top of the leaves. Add water to cover the dolma, cover the pan with a lid, and simmer for 40 minutes.
10. Mix together one cup plain, greek yogurt, one minced garlic clove, one tablespoon of lemon juice, and salt to taste. Set aside.
11. Once the dolma are done, arrange on a plate with a bowl of yogurt sauce. Serve warm.
12. Refrigerate dolma and serve cold with yogurt sauce.
Silk Road Gourmet