|Aglaia's Dolmades (Dolmades Nistisimi)|
Aglaia Kremezi, a noted Julia Child award winning cookbook author, runs a wonderful cooking school on the island of Kea in Greece, about a one hour ferry ride from the mainland. She and her husband Costas Moraitis and their friends treat you to 8 glorious days of inventive cooking, hiking and immersing yourself into the Greek culture at Keartisinal.
I have visions of hiking on ancient pathways to the ruins of Karthea where we explored the Temples of Apollo and Athena and descending to a secluded beach where Aglaia was waiting for us with a truly appreciated and spectacular meal. We had prepared the Dolmades Nistimi in class and they paired well with the grilled lamb chops and the fresh fish purchased from a fisherman just off shore in his boat (who lent us olive oil for frying and a burner stove for cooking). We snorkelled in the Agean Sea and dove from cliffs into the azure waters. It was truly a day burnt into the memory forever.
**Aglaias's Dolmades (Dolmades Nistisimi)**
- 1 8-oz jar brine-packed grape leaves, or half a 16-oz jar, drained (Aglaia used fresh grape leaves picked from her garden and blanched; we also have access to fresh leaves here in the Okanagan wine-country))
- 3 cups chopped onions
- 1 fennel bulb, trimmed and finely chopped
- 5 scallions (white and most of of the green parts), finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt or kosher salt
- 1 cup medium-grain rice, such as Arborio
- 1 cup chopped fresh dill
- 1 cup chopped fresh mint
- 1 cup olive oil
- freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup water (approximately)
- 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, or to taste
- 2 lemons, cut into wedges
- Thick sheep's milk yogurt or drained yogurt
1. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Carefully separate the grape leaves and blanch them, in batches, for about 1 minute, in the boiling water. Rinse with cold water and drain. In a large bowl, combine the onions, fennel, scallions and salt and work the mixture between your hands to wilt the vegetables. Stir in the rice, dill, mint, 1/2 cup of the oil and plenty of pepper.
2. Line the bottom of a large pot with the smaller and/or torn leaves. Place a large leaf, vein side up, on a work surface, with the stem toward you. Cut off the stem with scissors. Place about 1 T of the filling near the stem. Fold the two sides of the leaf over the filling. Fold over the bottom and roll up the leaf tightly like a cigar. Place seam side down in the pot. Continue with the remaining leaves, placing the dolmades tightly next to each other. When the bottom of the pot is filled, make a second layer.
3. Pour the water, the remaining 1/2 cup oil and the lemon juice over the dolmades. The liquid should almost cover them, if it does not, add a little more water. Place an inverted heatproof plate over the dolmades to keep them from unrolling as they cook. Bring the liquid to a boil, cover, reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 - 40 minutes, or until the rice is cooked. Remove from the heat. Let the dolmades cool completly. Refrigerate overnight.
4. To serve the dolmades, bring to room temperature. Arrange on a plate and serve, accompanied by lemon wedges and thick yogurt, if using.
Dolmades me Hondro
Omit the fennel and add 1/2 cup grated fresh or canned tomatoes to the stuffing. Substitute 1 cup coarse bulgur for the rice. If you like, add 1/2 to 1 tsp cumin, preferably freshly ground.
**Dolmades with Avgolemono**
Grape leaves are best picked in the Spring, while they are still tender. They can be washed and frozen between layers of waxed paper and will keep for a year. They are also available brined in jars. This is another delicious way to have dolmades.
- 1 jar preserved grape leaves, drained or 20 - 40 fresh
- 1/2 cup Basmati long-grain rice
- 1/4 cup plus 2 T olive oil
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 lb lean ground beef or lamb
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 4 oz feta cheese, crumbled finely or grated
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped mint
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- juice of 1 lemon
- 1 egg
- 3 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon (or less) cornstarch
1. Carefully separate the grape leaves, place in a large bowl and pour boiling water over them to cover. Let the leaves soak for 20 minutes, then drain and rinse to remove excess salt. Fresh ones will take only a minute. Drain the leaves, snip off the stems (reserving stems) and lay the leaves on towel to dry.
In a saucepan, bring 2 cups of salted water to a boil, and stir in the rice. Cover, and reduce the heat to low and cook rice until water is absorbed, about 17 - 20 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, heat 2 T olive oil in a skillet, add the onion and saute until soft, about 3 - 5 minutes. Add the garlic and saute 1 more minute, until aromas are released. Add the lamb or ground beef and cook until the meat is well browned., breaking it apart with a fork while cooking, about 15 minutes. Add the oregano, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the feta and remove from the heat. Stir in the rice, parsley and mint.
3. Place one leaf on a flat surface, vein side up, shiny side down. Place a rounded teaspoon of filling in the centre of the leaf, near the stem edge. Fold the stem end over the filling, then fold both sides toward the middle, and form into a roll. Squeeze lightly in the palm of your hand to secure the roll. Repeat the process with remaining leaves and filling.
4. Line the bottom of a 3-quart heavy saucepan with the reserved stems, trimmings and any leftover or torn grape leaves, and arrange bundles seam side down, packing them closer together in layers.
5. Combine the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil and 3/4 cup water, the sugar and lemon juice, and pour over the stuffed grape leaves. Place a small, heatproof plate on top of the stuffed leaves, cover the pan and simmer over low heat for about 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until leaves are tender and most of the liquid is absorbed. Serve warm with Avgolemono Sauce.
Separate egg. Whish egg white mixed with 1 tsp water, add yolk and mix. Add cornstarch to lemon juice and stir, add to egg mixture. Skim broth off dolmades (it is now a chicken/beef broth and should be greatly reduced beacause of the rice and add 1 T at a time to the egg mixture, whisking well. Egg mixture should thicken. Serve over dolmades.
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