Near the very top of my list of favorite things to do in the world, ever, is cooking with friends. I can think of nothing more fun than sitting around, cooking, eating while you cook, drinking (tea, wine, or margaritas if it has been that kind of day) telling stories, laughing, and making a mountainous pile of delicious food. More often than not, when I engage in these kinds of parties I am so stuffed by the time we are finished I can’t possibly eat another bite of food. Then I take another four bites and feel the need to lay down and put my feet up.
Dolmas lend themselves nicely to this activity.
One of my greatest friends, Angi, has been visiting from her home in Italy. Last week I mentioned to her that I wanted to try making dolmas. She had made them before, but this was my first time. I don’t know why the thought of making dolmas intimidated me, but it did. Once we gathered our ingredients and sat down to start rolling, I was pleasantly surprised at how easy they were. I can actually see myself making these on my own, but I doubt it will be half as fun as making them with a girlfriend.
I had perused a few recipes online, but opted to make up my own recipe (based upon the ingredients on a label from some I bought from the market).
This is what we did:
I started by cooking the rice. I cooked 2 cups brown rice and let it cool to room temperature. In the meantime I chopped two onions and sauteed them in some olive oil over medium heat until translucent. When the onions were close to being done I added about three cloves of minced garlic, and continued cooking for another minute or two (or until the garlic is cooked, but not browned).
In a large bowl I combined the rice, onions and garlic, juice from 2-3 lemons, about 1/4 cup olive oil (I didn’t measure, so add slowly, taste as you go, and add more if you feel it is too dry), about 2 tablespoons each of minced dill, parsley, and mint, salt and pepper to taste.
The jar of grape leaves came from a middle eastern store. The label claimed there were 56 leaves inside, but there were considerably more, this was a good thing, as some of the smaller leaves and the more ripped ones we had to double up on. Gently drain the liquid from the jar of leaves, remove and rinse all the leaves, being careful not to rip them.
When you are ready to assemble, place a leaf on a plate or clean surface, add a spoonful or two (depending on the size of the leaf) of the rice mix. I found it easiest for me to shape the mix into a cigar shape on top of the leaf before rolling. I then tucked in the sides, and using your fingers to keep the filling in place tightly roll the leaf up.
When I came across ripped leaves I either doubled them up or ripped off a piece of another leaf to patch it up.
If you end up having some to serve by the time you are done rolling (and we did, despite eating just enough to not make ourselves sick), drizzle with olive oil and serve.
Note: I kind of underestimated how much filling we would need, we actually ended up making the filling twice, so if you plan on making as many as we did (I think there were 60 – 70 including the ones we ate along the way), then double this recipe.