Thursday, June 19, 2014

Making Dolmades With Fresh Grape Leaves

Have access to fresh grape leaves? Make dolmades!

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Grape Leaves
I live in wine country and have a small vineyard with access to literally millions of grape leaves right outside my door. But for some reason I have never used them for cooking. I always go down to the Greek deli near our local post office when I have a craving for dolmades. So I finally took the plunge and tried making dolmades from scratch while the grape leaves are still young and tender. It was a snap!

The trick is to pick the leaves in late spring or early summer, before they toughen (and before my husband hedges the top of the vines). Pick grape leaves that are big enough to hold a filling and roll up and are as close to the top of the vine as possible. Usually that means the 3rd and 4th leaves. Only use organic grape leaves that have not been sprayed with pesticides.

I used grape leaves from my organic Sauvignon Blanc
plants but you can use leaves from any grape plant.

A single grape leaf contains
826 IU of Vitamin A and
26 mg of omega-3 fatty acid!

Pine Nuts
I gave up eating pine nuts a few years ago after getting pine mouth. This is a condition which causes everything you eat to taste like metal and originates from eating Chinese sourced pine nuts. So I'm going to try using Mediterranean pine nuts that I bought from They are pricey but it's worth not getting pine mouth. 

These mediterranean pine nuts from
are grown in Italy, Spain, and Portugal.

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Dolmades with Fresh Grape Leaves
Vegan, Gluten Free
[makes 36 pieces]
Requires 9"x13" casserole dish, a 5-quart Dutch oven or pot with lid, and a shallow, wide pan.

2 1/2 cups boiling water
1 large Rapunzel vegan bouillon cube*
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 
1 1/2 cups finely diced onion
Grated lemon zest from 1 organic lemon
1 cup white basmati rice
1/3 cup Mediterranean pine nuts
36 to 40 fresh grape leaves**
2 tablespoons fresh dill weed
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, or to taste
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

* you can substitute broth for the water and bouillon cube
** you can substitute canned or jarred grape leaves

Dissolve the bouillon cube in a pyrex with 2 1/2 cups of boiling water. Or use 2 1/2 cups of ready-made broth. Set aside.

In a 5-quart Dutch oven or large pot, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium heat. Add onions and grated lemon zest and cook until the onions begin to soften, about 5 minutes. 

Add the rice and pine nuts and stir until coated. Stir in 1 1/2 cups of broth and simmer, tightly covered, until the moisture is absorbed but not over 15 minutes. Set aside the remaining 1 cup of broth.

While the rice is cooking, bring a wide, shallow pan of water to a boil. Submerge the grape leaves in the boiling water and let stand for 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Submerged grape leaves.

When rice is cooked, add fresh dill, salt, and pepper. Let cool.

You can substitute a smaller amount of dried dill in this recipe
but fresh dill is far superior.
Taste the filling and adjust seasoning.

To assemble the dolmades, lay a blanched and dried grape leaf on a flat surface, shiny side down. Place 1 tablespoon of filling near the stem end of the leaf. 

Fold the stem end of the leaf over the filling.

Then fold in both sides towards the filling.

Then roll up completely.

Place dolmades seam-side down in a 9"x13" casserole dish. Repeat until you fill the pan. You may have left over filling. 

Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and two tablespoons of lemon juice to the pyrex with the remaining cup of broth. Stir well and pour over the dolmades. 

Tightly cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes or until the grape leaves can be easily pierced with a fork.

Remove from the oven and let cool with the foil remaining on the casserole dish.

Serve at room temperature or store in the refrigerator, covered, until needed.

Per serving: 42 calories, 2 g total fat, 0 g saturated fat, 34 mg omega-3 and 505 mg omega-6 fatty acid, 0 mg cholesterol, 1 g protein, 6 g carbohydrates, 1 g dietary fiber, and 89 mg sodium (using a large Rapunzel bouillon cube and 1/2 teaspoons added salt). 

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