Dolmades recipe is a delicious Greek stuffed grape leaves made of rice, spices and herbs, with or without meat and cooked in a lemony sauce.
It is serve as an appetizer or main dish. A few of these can easily fill you up.
Today’s Delight is Dolmades with Ground Beef. You can use ground lamb instead or you can prepare a vegetarian version without the meat using the same ingredients.
This Greek dish is delicious and refreshing with or without meat.
When I moved to the US, I was introduced to Greek food. I love Greek food or let me rephrase it – I love anything Mediterranean.
I better be careful, none of these countries like their cuisine compared to each other. But honestly, their food are very similar since they all use the same ingredients.
My friend is Greek and I learned so much about their culture and food. I thought I loved souvlaki made here in the US but when I visited Greece, the more I fell in love with their food.
What are Dolmades?
Dolmades also referred to as Dolma is a mixture of rice, meat or meatleass, onion, dill, parsley and seasonings wrapped in grape leaves and boiled in a lemony sauce. Some add mint to the mixture too.
Dolmades can be prepared vegetarian and it is good as well. In fact, my niece did not know that this can be made with meat.
Preparing it with beef, adds another layer of flavor on top of all the fresh spices and herbs.
It is summer and grape vine is growing in some backyards. If you are like me, I like to use fresh leaves.
It is best to pick the leaves during spring but you can pick it up until fall. I prefer to pick young leaves compared to mature ones.
Yeah, there are extra steps to do before using it but it is all worth it. It is not labor intensive to prepare the leaves or to make dolmades, as some describes it.
I don’t see anything hard about making this delicious dish!
Otherwise, use grape leaves in a jar. These are brine leaves commonly used in making dolma.
My Grape Vine
I have a seedless Thompson grapes that started bearing fruits in 2018. It is growing on a trellis and it is a joy to look at until it was attacked by a grapeleaf skeletonizers.
Grapeleaf Skeletonizer is literally a good name for them. They can skeletonize the leaves in a few days leaving only the veins and stems.
It was too late when I discovered them last year. They were everywhere and have eaten ½ the leaves in the vine and they were quick.
I was just out checking my vine and 2 days later my leaves were gone. Bummed and don’t know what caused it. I googled and found out about the skeletonizers.
They were not visible because they were all behind the leaves. There were 100s of them, no wonder why it took only a few days to damaged the vine.
I was glad though I never had contact with them coz I can develop welts.
Anyway, I made a concoction of orgarnic spray of alchohol, vinegar and spices that I found online. It worked but burned my fruits. I don’t pick the fruits anyway. Birds always beat me to it.
Well, I tried to be ahead this year. I pruned all the stems growing on the lower part of the vine and sprayed the vine with my concoction.
It worked but after a few day a new stem was forming close to the ground and guess what I found. Grapeleaf skeletonizers, but they haven’t made their way up the trellis. Luckily I found them on time.
Now it’s almost mid June and no grapes. I think I pruned the wrong stems. Oh well!
Btw, these grape skeletonizers are eggs of a bluish moth. Honestly, both moth and larvae are beautiful in color.
How to Prepare Grape Leaves for Dolmades?
The best time to pick the leaves is early spring. Leaves are young, tender and easy to chew.
Grape leaves have netted veins and it is easier to chew the bigger veins from a younger leaf than a mature one.
Leaves can be picked up until late fall, if possible don’t select a mature leaf. Mature leaves require longer to boil to tenderize bigger veins.
If USING FRESH GRAPE LEAVES,
(1) Wash all the leaves.
(2) Blanch younger leaves in boiling water for about 2 minutes and 3 to 4 minutes for mature leaves.
(3) Remove leaves with a slotted kitchen utensil and transfer to a bowl with cold water or water with ice cubes. This will stop leaves from cooking.
(4) Transfer leaves in a strainer to drain.
IF USING GRAPE LEAVES IN CAN OR JAR,
These are brined leaves loaded with salt. Transfer leaves in a strainer and place in running cold water to remove salt. Set aside to drain.
Tips in Making Dolmades Recipe
(1) If using fresh grape leaves, select younger leaves.
(2) Leaves that are too small can be stack together to form 1 leaf.
(3) Do not overfill stuffed leaves. It will be hard to roll or it might not hold its shape when boiled.
(4) Some people like it lemony, so add more lemon juice otherwise reduce it to your liking.
Me and my Greek friend loves it lemony. In fact, he mentioned that he loves my dolmades better than his moms. What a great compliment coming from a Greek!
(5) I used Arborio rice and it was delicious but any long grain rice will do.
Egg/Lemon Sauce (Avgolemono Sauce)
Lemon sauce is thickened and boiled with dolma.
Moist and delicious Dolma in Lemon Sauce.
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 cup long grain rice
- ¼ cup shallot or yellow onion chopped
- ¼ cup dill trimmed and chopped
- ⅓ cup Italian parsley chopped
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 large egg
- 3 to 4 cups water or chicken stock
- 25 fresh grape leaves or leaves sold in a jar remove stem
- 2 eggs
- 1 ½ lemon juiced
- 1 teaspoon flour
- 1 ½ to 2 cups dolmades liquid
- salt and pepper to taste
- If using fresh leaves, wash them thoroughly and blanch it in hot boiling water for 1 - 2 minutes for younger leaves and 3 – 4 minutes for matured leaves. Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to a bowl with ice cold water for a minute or two then transfer to a strainer to drain water. If using leaves sold in a jar, transfer to a strainer and run cold water for a few minutes. This process will remove the salt. Brine leaves are loaded with salt. Then drain water.
- Prepare the filling. Wash rice thoroughly and drain water. In a large bowl, combine ground beef, uncooked rice, onion, dill, parsley, salt and pepper. Once combined, stir-in the egg and blend well.
- Lay 1 grape leaf and add 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon filling depending on the size of leaf. Do not overfill and don’t roll too tightly as rice will expand while cooking. Add the filling close to the base of leaf closer to the stem then fold the lower section over the filling then fold the two sides inward (towards center) and continue rolling like an egg roll. In a large pot, place dolmades with folded side down. Continue making all the dolmades, placing it in the pot in a row. Note: Make sure there are no torn pieces where filling can escape while cooking.
- Once all the dolmades are in the pot, cover top with leftover or torn grape leaves and place a plate on top of dolmades to hold it in place while cooking. Add 3 to 4 cups of water or chicken stock enough to cover dolmades and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 45 minutes. Cover with lid.
- When done, remove grape leaves (can eat this too), plate and transfer cooked dolmades in a casserole. There will be a cup and ½ or so of liquid in the pot. This liquid will be added to the sauce.
Make Avgolemono Sauce (Egg/Lemon Sauce)
- Squeeze lemon. Set aside. In a bowl, whisk eggs, then add lemon juice and flour. Mix well. Add the liquid from the dolmades stirring constantly until well combined.
- In a large pot, bring the sauce to a boil stirring constanly then lower heat and season with salt and pepper. Put and arrange the dolmades in the sauce and simmer for another 8 to 10 minutes. Sauce will be thicker. Turn off heat.
- Transfer dolmades in a serving plate and serve the sauce in a separate bowl or serve it with the sauce, whichever way you prefer.
- If you have some small leaves, you can stack 2 or 3 together forming 1 leaf then put filling at the center and roll.
- If you like it less lemony, use only the juice from 1 lemon.
- For the rice, I used Arborio rice and it was delicious.