This recipe is one of the most popular Greek dishes. The meatless version is eaten mainly during times of fasting, but they are enjoyed all year round. They are served as a meze (savory snack) or appetizer together with olives, cheese, sliced hard-boiled egg, sliced tomato and cucumber, to accompany ouzo (a Greek traditional alcoholic drink), beer or even a glass of wine. They are also an excellent vegetarian dish.
If you happen to have a vine in your backyard, you can collect the tender leaves (medium sized) to wrap the dolmades. Very large leaves are usually tough. If not, you can buy them in jars. In this case the vine leaves are tightly folded and rolled. Take them out of the jar and unfold them carefully, wash them in fresh water and let them drain in a colander. It is a bit time consuming to roll the dolmades, but they are worth the trouble.Ingredients About 40 – 50 vine leaves (depends on their size) 1 ½ cup rice (like parboiled rice, but you can use any kind of rice you like) 1 large onion grated 1 cup olive oil ½ cup parsley, finely chopped 2 tablespoonfuls dill, finely chopped A few sprigs of mint, finely chopped The juice of 1 lemon 1 lemon sliced Salt, pepper
If you use fresh vine leaves, you will have to wash them and then blanch them in boiling water for 1 minute. Drain them and let them cool so that you can handle them. In the meantime, prepare the stuffing.
Put half the oil in a pan and sauté the onion. Don’t let it change color, it must just soften. Then add the rice that you have washed and sauté it for a further 5 minutes. Add 1 cup hot water and let the rice simmer until it is half done, about 10 minutes. Add the parsley, dill and mint, salt and pepper and stir. When the rice has absorbed all the water, take it out of the fire. Let it cool a little before stuffing the vine leaves.
Lay a few vine leaves on your work surface, rough side facing you. When you roll the dolmades the shiny side will be on the outside. If there is a stem, cut it off with a pair of scissors or a sharp knife. Place a teaspoonful on the leaf, (the exact amount depends on the size of the leaf) leaving some space on top which must be folded over the stuffing. Fold inwards the two sides of the leaf and then roll the dolmas until you have a tight little packet.
Place the dolmades in a large bottomed pot, tightly the one next to the other, resting on the open side. If you have more dolmades, you just place them carefully on top of the first layer. After you have finished rolling all the dolmades, add 1 ½ – 2 cups of water and set the pot on the fire. Place a plate upside down on the dolmades, so that they don’t move around while they are cooking. Simmer them for about 45 minutes. Check now and then to see that there is water in the pot, so that the dolmades don’t burn, and if needed add just ¼ cup. If you want, you can line the bottom on the pot with some vine leaves, so that the dolmades don’t come into direct contact with the pot itself. Five minutes or so before they are cooked, add the rest of the oil and the lemon juice. At the end of the cooking time, the rice should have absorbed all the liquid.
Take them off the fire, remove the plate, and let the dolmades cool a little. Carefully lift them off the pot and arrange them on a platter. Decorate with slices of lemon, some olives and a sliced tomato.