Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Perhaps my favorite thing that I ate while in Greece was dolmades. Before the trip I knew them as stuffed grape leaves, but dolmades (or dolmadakia) is the correct name. I ate them twice on the trip: once with tzatzki sauce and sliced tomatoes and once drizzled with a really thick oil of some sort (I never figured out just what it was, but it was tasty). I was a big fan of both, but I especially dug the freshness of the leaves with the tzatzki. The tomatoes were also a nice flavor booster.
A few nights ago I set out to make my own dolmades, and in the process I learned a little about how they are traditionally served. It turns out that they're usually referred to as dolmades when they contain meat and are served as a main course. I'm sure those are nice, but I prefer mine to be meatless and small -- served as meze (a first course). The recipe I found called for wine-soaked red currants and golden raisins, but I wasn't really in the mood for the dried fruit addition so I left it out. Also, I had some nice mozzarella in my fridge so I substituted that for the Greek cheeses the recipe called for (though I do think a nice salty feta would be very tasty). I added some sauteed scallions and a ton of minced garlic, and soon I'd created my own version of dolmadakia, just a shadow of the recipe. In the future I plan on adding a handful of chopped fresh dill to amp up the flavor a little more and perhaps a little mint for interest.
These are fun treats to make, and they look pretty impressive (I think). If you try them out yourself please let me know how yours turn out!
12 oz arborio rice
2 Tablespoons butter
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 - 3 shallots, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
6 oz shredded mozzarella cheese (or crumbled feta)
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh dill
2 teaspoons chopped fresh mint
20 - 30 grape vine leaves packed in oil
Cook the arborio rice according to package directions. Once rice is cooked add butter and stir to incorporate.
Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a small pan and saute shallots on low heat for 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 2 more minutes. Add the shallots, garlic, mozzarella (or feta), dill, and mint to the cooked rice. Stir to thoroughly combine.
Remove vine leaves from oil and separate one leaf from the others taking care not to tear it. Flatten the leaf on a clean work surface.
Place approximatel 2 teaspoons of the rice filling in the center of the leaf. Fold the bottom of the leaf upward, over the rice filling.
Fold the sides of the leaf in and over the rice filling. Roll the leaf forward, toward the top of the leaf. As you roll, neatly tuck in any loose pieces of the leaf. When you finish you should have a neat little bundle filled with rice. (Some of the leaves will tear so it's important to have a few extras.) Repeat with the remaining rice and leaves.
Once you have filled all of the leaves with rice and formed neat bundles, pack them in a medium sauce pan. I only made enough to form one layer in the pan I used, but if you have more you can stack them on top to create a second layer of leaves. Pack them tightly in the pan, then cover with water.
Place a lid or plate on top of the leaves to hold them under the water. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook the leaves for 10 minutes. Drain the water from the pan, pressing on the leaves with the lid or plate to remove excess water. Carefully remove the leaves from the pan, place on a platter, and put in the refrigerator. Refrigerate until the leaves are cold, approximately 1 hour.
Serve the grape leaves cold or at room temperature with tzatzki sauce and sliced tomatoes.
The Greeks serve theirs in a star shape. I was pretty pleased with my presentation. The picture above is of the dolmadakia I made at home. The two pictures below were taken on my trip (in actual Greek restaurants). Not too shabby, huh?
I ate these on the island of Santorini. They were my favorites!
I had these on the island of Naxos -- very tasty as well!
I'm a pretty big fan of these little bundles. It takes a few tries to really get down the folding, but once you do it's easy to make a lot of these fairly quickly. Opa!