09 February 2006


I made stuffed grape leaves (also known as dolmas or dolmades, or probably a lot of other names too...) a few weeks ago for the very first time. Note that I eat these quite often, but have never made them myself. I wanted to do this a week ago but left the jar of leaves (as well as tahini) in the car for about a week, and decided that they probably got too warm in the sunshine. Plus, plenty of microbiology labs have given me the confidence to not "feel bad" and just toss it away because I know what kinda crap grows on there anyway.

Back to the point... I finally bought another jar of leaves and in perfect timing because the night before Miriam (http://www.knockedupvegan.com/) posted her recipe and she made all these while super-pregnant and with a sore shoulder. In that case, me NOT pregnant, and my shoulder sucks too, I decided to go ahead and give it a go.

At first I didn't know how many to make. Miriam's looked small and skinny but that could have been the camera angle. I have always eaten shorter fat ones or even large ones too. I had no idea how much filling to put in but soon enough realized that too much filling is bad and makes everything fall apart. I had a lot of filling on the floor (yes, my fatness Killian enjoyed it).
This is what the grape leaves consisted of. I started to follow Miriam's recipe, but decided to leave out cinnamon and allspice, but I liked the idea of one reader's from Turkey (I think) and she puts lentils in hers. I have only had rice/veggie ones and Miriam had chickpeas. So, I decided to go for both lentils and chickpeas with the rice. I used basmati so it cooked faster. I also decided to throw in my own ingredients.

Here it is:*grape leaves
*one and a half cups basmati rice (organic)
*about a third cup green lentils (they really look brown)
*about a half a cup of organic chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
*one bunch fresh parsley
*2 tomatoes, diced small
*fresh lemon juice (I used about a half of a super-small lemon)
*garlic (just because I have to add garlic to everything)
*black pepper
*sea salt
*crushed red pepper
*olive oil (a bit)

I decided to stop measuring after the rice and lentils because I didn't even know how many this was going to make anyway. I just added stuff based on my cooking experiences and the ratio seemed ok to me. Next time I will add a bit more of each spice.

First I stocked a pan with leaves (rinsed and drained) and cut up onions and carrots. Then I cleaned and prepared about a third of the jar of leaves and put them out and pressed the veins down. This was annoying and boring. Worth it though.

Then I combined all the ingredients. The rice/chickpeas and lentils were NOT cooked before hand. All of this is dry ingredients and everything cooks in the leaf. Yum. Everything got better as I went on and "practiced". Dry ingredients mixed together and ready for rolling. I have no rolling photos. I was very new at this and frustrated because they kept ripping and stuff kept falling apart and I wanted to throw the leaves across the room. But I controlled myself (with little effort) and continued on. I ended up going through all 61 leaves, but only made about 40 stuffed leaves, as I had a few disasters now and again.

All rolled up and in the pan... A closer look, not the best rolling efforts. I should have done a google-search on rolling last night instead of this morning. About.com has great grape-leaf rolling photos.

Then I added some tomato sauce as well as enough water to cover the leaves completely.
Then I put a heavy plate on top of the leaves once they came to a boil. I turned down the heat and simmered with a lid for about 30-40 minutes with the heavy plate on top.
This is after cooking. You can see how some were stuffed too much and fell apart. They still tasted pretty good. And the leftover nasty one that fell apart too much to try to save. I just tossed the rest. The final product. You can see how some got brown on the sides of the pan. And I accidentally spilled tomato sauce in the leftover rice mixture but decided to cook it up anyway so I added a bit of water and covered it to cook alongside the leaves in another pot. Ray ate most of this, as grapeleaves aren't the best to him, just the filling.

And that's that. I need to practice. I want to roll sushi too, but for now, these leaves are enough to practice. They seem harder than sushi anyway. I like eating these leaves with olive oil or hummus too.


SusanV said...

They look really good! I've been meaning to make some ever since Miriam posted hers.

Thanks for visiting my blog and posting in the comments. It looks like you were rolling grape leaves while I was rolling sushi! :-)

Isil S. said...

Hi Leslie,
I have been knowing you for a long while trough your comments at Miriam's blog.
I'm a vegan blogger from Turkey and these dolmas are also a traditional dish here.
I'll be happy to give you some tips:
1)Do not overstuff the leaves.Since the filling is uncooked,about 2 teaspoons is enough. Otherwise they explode ;)
2)If you place some grapeleaves at the bottom, they are burnt in case, though nothing hanppens to the dolmades.
3)No need to add too much water.It's enough if you add until you reach the half of pot and cook on low heat about 1 hour.
4)Lastly we Turkish people make a different filling, you can see it here

If I made this version,I would cook the chickpeas and lentils before. Because, you know it takes very long time for chickpeas and lentils to cook.I guess at the end of that time the leaves would die ;)Miriam may give us information if she uses them uncooked or not.

EatPeacePlease said...

Actually, many of these are older dishes that I have been waiting to set up on this site. I just got it set up a few days ago, and have so much to do, but have the day off today!

I wish I was at your house when you made that sushi! I highly suggest trying to roll the grape leaves, but 1) don't take my advice on rolling, 2) ask Miriam what to do, she's an expert in my opinion, 3) have a few hours on hand, 4) have a lot of patience and finally 5) enjoy them, because they are good no matter how much they fall apart!

Miriam said...

Alright, I'm just going to make the stuffing. That part is easy. Then once it's cooked and cooled down I'll eat it and PRETEND it's wrapped in a leaf...how different can it be?

Isil is right - I always cook my chickpeas ahead of time before mixing it in with the rice, and definitely don't overstuff - but lentils cook a lot faster than chickpeas and brown rice cooks a lot slower than white rice so in the end I believe it evens out to use brown rice/uncooked lentils. :)