26 June 2014

From dolmens to dolmas

The vines are growing really fast right now. The stems and tendrils seem to be reaching for the sky. And the leaves are getting pretty big but have not yet been hardened by overly hot, sunny weather. All that I've said applies both to the vines in the vineyard and the few table grape vines that we have in our own back yard.

Dolmas as a side dish, served hot with Greek-style spaghetti made with feta cheese, garlic, fresh tomato, dried orgeano, and capers.

So it was time to make dolmas — stuffed grape vine leaves. They are an annual treat. One advantage of using the leaves from the vines in our back yard is that we know they haven't been sprayed with pesticides or chemicals of any kind.

These on the left have been blanched in boiling water and are ready to be filled and rolled.

I've posted about making dolmas several times over the years. In 2010, for example. Or 2013. In past years, I've made a stuffing for the leaves with rice, onion, spices, and raisins.

This year I wanted to make a meat and rice stuffing, and I did, using ground beef, brown rice, and onions. I ended up making way too much stuffing so I put half of it in the freezer.

We'll use the extra beef and rice to stuff tomatoes or zucchini or eggplants later this summer, assuming that the 2014 vegetable garden is a success. It has a lot of herbs from the garden in it — chervil (cerfeuil) and mint (menthe).

I won't go into the process of rolling the dolmas up in this post. It's pretty easy and goes fast. The main thing is to blanch the grape vine leaves in boiling water to make them limp and foldable.

I had picked 35 grape vine leaves, and I blanched them a dozen or so at a time for two or three minutes in a large quantity of boiling water. Then I put them into a cold water bath to stop the cooking.

The other main ingredient in the stuffing is the juice of a lemon. After you brown the beef with a large diced-up onion in olive oil and cook a cup of rice (so you have about three cups after cooking), you mix all that together with the herbs and add the lemon juice and some more olive oil. Greek cooking uses a lot of lemon and lemon juice.

You also cook the dolmas, after rolling them up, with a lot of lemon. The ones above are ready for the oven. Pack the dolmas in an oven-proof dish with a tight-fitting lid. Slice three lemons and arrange the slices on top. Add just enough water to the panto nearly cover the dolmas and put the pan, covered, in the oven at 160ºC (325ºF) for about an hour. Add water as needed to keep the grape leaves moist. Serve the dolmas cold, warm, or hot, as you like.


  1. Definitely dolmas are very tasty.

  2. That pasta looks tasty, too!

    1. Hi E., here's the recipe for the spaghetti:

      Greek-style garlic spaghetti

      1 lb. spaghetti
      4 tablespoons olive oil
      2 -3 garlic cloves, minced (more if you like)
      7 ounces feta cheese, cubed
      8 ounces diced tomatoes (or 1 can if fresh not available)
      1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
      salt and pepper (the feta is pretty salty, taste before seasoning)

      1 tablespoon chopped parsley
      2 tablespoons capers, drained
      1/4 cup chopped kalamata olives

      Heat olive oil in large saute pan. Add garlic and sauté until lightly brown.

      Meanwhile, boil spaghetti until just underdone about 8 minutes), drain (reserve some of the water, about 1/2 cup) and set aside.

      Add cheese, tomatoes and red pepper flakes to pan with garlic and stir to combine and slightly cook the tomatoes.

      Add cooked pasta and stir to combine.

      Add reserved pasta water as needed if too thick.

      As desired, capers, olives, and/or parsley can be added to taste at the last minute.

      (The feta cheese I used was made with a combination of goat's and ewe's milk.)

  3. That looks fresh and tasty, and the rolls look great all bundled there together on the plate :)

  4. I wish I could have joined you! Dolmas are an annual event here, too, but not this year. We were away when the leaves were the right size.

    The combination of lemon juice and olive oil is probably what makes Greek/Middle Eastern cooking so appealing to me. It's just about my favorite cuisine.

  5. My ex and I used to make dolmathes a lot, it was a team effort. I miss eating them


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