Greek Dolma or Stuffed Grape Leaves

My mom used to make stuffed grape leaves on special occasions – it really is a time consuming labor of love. She made them with ground lamb, pine nuts, rice, garlic, dill, paprika, and cooked them in a thin tomato sauce. Of course we had lemon and tzatziki┬ásauce on the side. The paprika might seem odd – it’s probably a Hungarian or Turkish influence like in stuffed peppers – but it works if you like paprika; it’s optional. I cut out the mint because my wife isn’t a fan, but you can add mint if you like it; think lamb + mint = yum.

Ingredients

Filling

  • 8 oz grape leaves (or 1/2 jar), preserved grape leaves
  • 1/2 lbs ground lamb
  • 1/2 cup white rice, uncooked
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, diced (optional)
  • 1 Tbsp pine nuts
  • 1 Tbsp currents (optional)
  • 1 Tbsp fresh mint, chopped (optional to taste)
  • 1 tsp salt (to taste)
  • 1 tsp black pepper (to taste)
  • 1 tsp paprika (optional to taste)

Tzatziki Sauce

  • 1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded
  • 2 cups plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 Tbsp diced onion (optional)
  • 1 Tbsp diced garlic
  • 1 lemon squeezed
  • 1 Tbsp dill
  • 1 tsp chopped mint (optional)

Cooking

  • 15 oz can tomato sauce
  • 1 cup water

Sides

  • Serve with lemon wedges and tzatziki sauce

Directions

Tzatziki Sauce

Prepare tzatziki sauce 3-4 hours before meal, and set in refrigerator.

Peel and seed cucumber, then grate it into a bowl. Stir in a pinch of salt, and let it stand for 10 minutes.

Squeeze out water.

In a bowl mix cucumber, yogurt, garlic, onion, dill, lemon, mint.

Stuffing

Start by soaking grape leaves in large bowl of water to separate them and remove the brine.

In a large bowl mix lamb, uncooked rice, olive oil, parsley, onion, pine nuts, currents, mint, salt, pepper, and paprika.

The grape leaves have a smooth side and a ribbed side and they usually have 5 distinct chambers.

Start rolling with leaves rib-side up, then place ~1 tsp of stuffing mixture on the central stem, then pull up the bottom 2 chambers, then pull in the left and right chambers, finish by rolling over the top chamber.

Place several leaves in the bottom of the pot to cover, and spoon in a few tablespoons of tomato sauce on top of that. Then place a layer of dolma on top of that, seem side down. Then a layer of leaves and a layer of sauce. Then a layer of dolma. Then a layer of leaves and a layer of sauce.

Add water to cover, then bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer, and cover. Let simmer for about 50 minutes or until rice is cooked – test one or two with a fork after 30 minutes.

When they are finished cooking serve with side of tzatziki sauce and lemon wedges.