Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Stuffed Grape Vine Leaves: Dolmades

Before I get to the recipe, I'll say that I'm promising to get a whole list of food blogs up --just not right now (this morning).

I posted this on my other blog over a year ago, and also on a forum. Since then we've moved (we have a pool now) and don't have vines growing in the back yard. However, never fear cus I'd harvested and prepared a bunch of leaves. Also, I'm growing some vines here and it looks like I'll be getting a good round of fresh leaves soon --pics will be up soon... I hope.

Anyways, here's my stuffed vine leaf recipe. Oh, it may sound complex and time-consuming, but afte the first couple of tries you'll be making them with your eyes closed --especially if you used canned leaves.

This is the revised and updated version of the one I posted on my blog a while back. I've refined it and these are AWESOME! Here ya go:

Dave's dolmades

Yeah, I know, there are probably more ways to make dolmades and more things to stuff em with than you can shake a stick at. But I feel I might as well tell you the way I make mine and you could give it a go if you'd like.

Oh, dolmades are stuffed grape vine leaves.

What you need:

20-30 vine leaves (fresh is best, pick em early so they are flavourful!)
one clove of garlic
1/2 cup (4 oz) raw rice (any long grained variety is fine, I use Basmati)
2 tbspns crushed peanuts (already salted and roasted and shelled)
1/2 to 1 teaspoon (2-5 mls) dried mint
2-5 mls (1/2 to 1 tsp) dried tarragon
dash of sea salt
small handful or raisins or sultanas
1 scallion (spring onion) including the green part up top
2-4 tbspns (30-60 mls) minced onion
olive oil
2 to 3 cups of chicken stock (or veggie stock if that's your preference)
1 tbsp of couscous (or some kind of tiny, round pasta)

What you do:

I'm going to describe the whole process of preparing the vine leaves, if you only can get your hands on the canned or bottled variety then you can skip down a bit.

Pick 20 to 30 vine leaves from the vine growing over your pergola outside your kitchen window (anyone jealous?). Note, when picking, snip then right at the leaf base so there's no stem at all. Rinse them well. Lay them flat in a steamer, one on top of the other. Steam them till they just turn from bright green to olive drab (only takes a minute or two).

Before the leaves dry, lightly brush each leaf with olive oil, being careful not to tear them, and stack them on a plate. You'll use a fair amount of olive oil here, be generous.

After all the leaves are oiled let them cool.

While they are cooling, prepare the stuffing.

Fry the minced onion in olive oil for 3 to 4 mins, then add the crushed peanut, the couscous, the scallion, the mint, the tarragon, sea salt, raisins (or sultanas) and more olive oil and fry for another minute. Keep it moving (easily done with a wok, just give it a good shake and flip every 10-20 secs).

Add the raw rice and more olive oil and fry again for 3-4 mins. Keep it moving, folks. You'll know the rice is ready when it goes from translucent white to opaque white (yes, it's still crunchy and pretty raw at this point). Set the mixture aside and let it cool.

Place a vine leaf flat with the "rough" side up. Place a SMALL amount of the stuffing (we're talking barely more than a teaspoon --remember, the rice and couscous are gonna swell up) on the leaf towards the base of the leaf. Fold the left and right sides over, then roll up towards the tip. The bundle should seal itself with olive oil. Place the bundle in an oiled (olive oil) baking dish. Continue till you run out of stuffing or vine leaves.

Oh, last time I had leftover stuffing mix, so I made a great crab sauce with it to go on top of the steamed blue whiting (it's a fish).

Once your baking dish is packed, slowly pour the chicken stock (or veggie stock, or fish stock)) over the bundles until they are just covered and starting to float. Cover and bake at 185 C (365 F) for 30-40 mins. You'll know they are done when the leaves are very very tender, they plumped up nicely, and there's almost no stock left.

Let them cool in the dish for 15 to 20 mins, then carefully take them out of the dish. No, don't tear em! Didn't I tell you to be careful? Put em on a plate to let cool (pack them together) and lightly brush with more olive oil. Once they are cool you can handle them without tearing so turn em over after they are cool, cover with cling wrap and let them sit overnight.

Eat and enjoy! Oh, did I mention they are very healthy?

I know it seems like a lot of work, but after a couple of go's it's pretty simple.

Oh, the drippings from the bottom of the baking dish after you take the dolmades out is excellent!

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