Dolmas (Middle Eastern Stuffed Grape Leaves)
One of the things I am enjoying about this sweetener-free challenge is determining how much sweetener I truly need. Furthermore, I feel less bloated, which is really keeping me motivated to stick with the challenge this long. I love throwing fruit into my savoury dishes, but I know not everyone rolls with me.
Earlier this fall, I made Cherry Collard Dolmas. A little bit more non-traditional because I was lazy and used larger collard leaves but also because sweet cherries were used to complement the savoury spice mix of cinnamon, allspice, mint and dill. Currants and pistachios were also mixed in there for good measure. Brown rice and white beans were used to amp up its nutritional profile. Yes, these were very good.
This time, I consulted with Tess for a simpler version. Brown rice and chickpeas are the base with fresh tomatoes, dill and fresh lemon juice, wrapped in a salty grape leaf. Seemingly humble ingredients, combined into power rolls, you have a winning snack. I liked them both before I cooked them (the lemon juice was a strong, fresh flavour) but they mellowed out nicely after a 20-minute steam.
I don’t know about you, but there is something so awesome about little nibbly snacks. Finger foods are fun. Serve as an appetizer, a snack, or eat a bunch as a meal. I served mine with a simple tahini dip which contrasted the lemony flavours nicely. A thinned out hummus dressing could work, too.
There is only one problem with finger foods. That means I have to assemble a whole bunch of teeny rolls! Trust me, it is worth it. However, if it is a weeknight and you just want to eat pronto, throw it into a larger collard leaf instead.
2 cups cooked brown rice (or cook 1/2 cup dry brown rice)
1 tbsp olive oil
3/4 cup cooked chickpeas
2 cups Roma tomatoes, finely chopped
2 green onions, finely chopped
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tsp dried dill
1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
20 marinated grape leaves (can be found at Marche Istanbul or other Middle Eastern grocers), rinsed if desired
1. In a large bowl, mix together the cooked brown rice, olive oil, chickpeas, tomatoes, green onions, lemon juice and dill. Add the salt and season to taste. Season with a bit less salt than you would normally prefer since the marinated grape leaves are salty, too. Feel free to allow to marinate for at least 10 minutes.
2. When ready, assemble your dolmas. Prepare your dolmas by placing 1 tbsp of filling in a grape leaf (or 1/4 cup of filling into each collard wrap). For the grape leaves, place the leaf’s shiny side down, with the filling towards the base of the leaf, near the stem. (Photo instructions here). Roll the sides in first, then roll away towards the tip of the leaf. It is the same for the collard, just use more filling, depending on the size of your leaf. Place the rolled dolmas into your steamer basket, tightly next to each other. If you don’t have enough room, you can also make a second layer.
3. I honestly think you could stop here and eat the dolmas with their fresh flavours. If you want to cook the, prepare a steamer basket. Place a container underneath, cover and boil an inch of water over medium heat. Once boiling, place the filled steamer basket overtop and cover. Steam dolmas for 20 minutes or until the grape leaves are tender.