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The Secret for the Best Greek Dolmades

This past year, I’ve really tried to broaden my culinary horizons by trying something new whenever I can. On my last vacation, I saw an item on the menu that I had never seen before: Greek Dolmades. I talked to one of my friends who is currently in Greece studying abroad and she stated that dolmades are hard to perfect if you are not in Greece or don’t have a secret family recipe.

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There are two types of popular dolmades, the vegetarian version and dolmades with ground lamb or ground round. By definition, a dolmades is a grape leaf rolled up and stuffed with rice, toasted pine nuts, fresh herbs, and seasonings. Recipes can vary by different regions but the base of the recipe usually remains the same. Dolmades are normally served as part of an appetizer or salad or even enjoyed as a snack.

 

There are specific actions that need to be taken when making great dolmades. After doing a great deal of research, this is what I figured out: The smaller the leaf, the more tender! Be picky about which grape leaves you buy and use. This is a suggestion that will save your recipe for years to come. The more onions the better! Grape leaves are known to already be a little bit sour and briny so it’s important to add more onions than you think. Caramelizing the onions to perfection is an important trick. A perfectly caramelized onion makes the dolmades sweet and tender. It’s important to know not to over cook the rice. When the rice gets over cooked, the stuffing to the dolmades becomes too mushy and it makes it hard for the grape leaves to form around it. When stuffing the grape leaf, make sure to only use about a tablespoon of stuffing. This will make it easier to wrap and seal the grape leaf.

Now that you know the secrets to making perfect dolmades, go try it at home!

Dolmades
Grape leaves stuffed with rice, onions, and herbs
by Diane Kochilas
Serves 6-8

  • 1 16-ounce jar grape leaves packed in brine

  • ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 4 large onions, peeled and finely chopped (about 4 cups)

  • 1 cup finely chopped scallions

  • 1 cup long-grain rice

  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

  • ⅓ cup finely chopped mint leaves

  • ½ cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

  • ⅓ cup finely chopped dill

  • Salt and pepper, to taste

  • Strained juice of 2 lemons

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