Presvitera’s Dolmades Recipe:
1 cup uncooked long-grain rice
2-3 T. EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil)
1 medium white onion, chopped
1/4 cup fresh dill, chopped
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped
1 tsp. salt
2 large lemons, juiced
1 litre chicken or vegetable stock, heated
30 grape leaves, rinsed and drained (from jar or use fresh but boil until tender)
In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, saute the onion in 2 T. EVOO for a few minutes, then add the rice and herbs and continue stirring until the onion has softened. Slowly, pour in half the heated stock and reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for another 10 minutes, or until rice is almost cooked but still very al dente. You do not want to overcook your rice, but you do want it started! Stir in half the lemon juice and remove from heat, cool until easy enough to handle.
Line the bottom of your pot with a few extra vine leaves you have so the dolmades will not burn while cooking, I try to choose the broken or unusable ones from the jar. Take one leaf, place shiny side down, and spoon 1 teaspoon (only 1 tsp. or they will burst open and not be pretty at all) or more/less according to the size of the leaf itself, but you want to easily be able to tightly fold; remember that the rice will still expand more while cooking. Fold over both sides of the leaf towards the center, and begin to snuggly roll up from the bottom to top. You may have to slightly fold the top sides even more inwards (think slight triangle) to get a “prettier” roll. It is all in the practice, so just find what works best for you! Once you have finished rolling one, place it seam side down in the pot. Repeat placing the dolmades together so as to not leave any gaps and allowing the leaves to split open. Try to stack the first layer all facing the same direction and when you begin the 2nd layer, switch the direction for a kind of criss-cross pattern; repeat until finished. Sprinkle the top with remaining lemon juice and olive oil.
Gently, pour the remaining stock just enough to cover the top layer. Place a flat weight – like a small, upside down plate – on top of the vine leaves, cover the pot, and simmer for 45-60 minutes – making sure not to boil, because this will make the stuffing overflow from the leaves. When close to the time, check one to confirm that the rice is tender, take into account that they will also slightly cook a little more while cooling down. Remove from heat, remove cover, and let cool for another half hour. Transfer to a plate/dish and serve with lemon slices and greek yogurt if you choose! It is also very “Greek” to top them with a little white vinegar and some extra salt if needed. Try it all and decide for yourself!
There are many different versions of the stuffing for dolmades, the usual contains ground beef and sometimes even fish. There are also vegetable varieties, but the simplicity of fresh herbs and rice, in my opinion, is the perfect balance of flavor and lightness!