Dolmades – Stuffed Grape Leaves, Vegetarian Version

A friend generously dropped off a bag of grape leaves for a session of dolmades rolling. Stuffed grape leaves are a tasty appetizer of Greek and Lebanese origins. (There could be other versions too). Dolmadakia to the former, mahshi to the latter, they can be stuffed with lamb, pine nuts and cinnamon, beef, or with raisins along with rice.

I’m making mine vegetarian with pine nuts, no raisins, spiced with mint and dill.  You might be familiar with the jars of leaves sitting in brine, but using them fresh is dead simple. Remove the stems and blanch the leaves in boiling water for about 12 to 15 seconds, until they relax and change colour. Rinse under cold water. Pat dry.
Prepare the filling
1 1/2 cup of finely chopped onion
1/3 cup of pine nuts
1 cup of long grain rice
juice of two lemons
big handful of mint, chopped
big handful of dill, chopped
Saute the onion in olive oil on medium heat. Add rice and pine nuts and stir for about 10 minutes.

 Add juice of one lemon, salt and pepper. Stir in mint and dill and set aside. Of course, the rice will not be cooked through. This is what you want.
If you don’t have one of these hand juicers, put it at the top of your wish list.
Line up as many leaves as you can, vein side up, assembly-line style. Add a tablespoon or so to the bottom of each leaf. Fold the bottom up, then fold in the sides, rolling firmly to the top of the leaf.
Place the finished rolls, tip side down, in  a medium sized pot or saute pan in a circle, layering until all the leaves have been rolled up. (Save a few sad-looking leaves for the top).
Adorn the top with a few mint leaves, reserved grape leaves and fill the pot with water to barely cover the leaves. Add more lemon juice.
Weight the dolmades with an inverted plate insuring that they will not move while cooking. Cover the plate with a weight such as a smaller pot. Bring to the boil and simmer for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until most of the liquid is absorbed. That means keep a watchful eye out.
Remove from heat and let cool. Carefully remove the rolls to a plate. You can eat them hot if you like, with salt, more lemon juice and olive oil. If storing in the fridge, make sure they are well wrapped to prevent them from drying out. To serve, I drizzled on more olive oil and used orange juice as I ran out of lemons and sprinkled with sea salt. Tasty and addictive.

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