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Stuffed Grape Leaves (with meat)

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These small bundles of meat and rice wrapped in grape leaves are a favorite dish in Greece. The name comes from the Turkish word "dolma" meaning "stuffed." They are time- and labor-intensive to make, so the recipe is for a pretty large quantity. They can be stored in the refrigerator for several days, or frozen.

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Ingredients

  • 1 jar of large grape leaves in brine (about 60-75 leaves) or about 180 small leaves
  • 8 cups of water
  • 2 pounds of lean ground beef (I also use 1 pound beef and 1 pound ground lamb)
  • 1 cup of uncooked short-grain rice
  • 2 medium-large onions, finely chopped
  • 5 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 bunch of fresh dill, chopped (I have also used 1-2 tablespoons dried dill if fresh not available)
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh mint, chopped (I have also used 1 tablespoon dried mint as well if fresh not available.)
  • 1-2 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon ground turmeric
  • juice of 3 lemons or 3/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon of pepper
  • 1 teaspoon of sea salt
  • 4 cups of beef broth or water

Details

Servings 40
Preparation time 60mins
Cooking time 120mins
Adapted from greekfood.about.com

Preparation

Step 1

Remove grape leaves from brine. Rinse, then soak in cold water to remove some of the saltiness of the brine.

Soak the rice for 10 minutes in hot water and drain. (Alternatively, sauté the rice with the onion. I prefer to do this.) Sauté the onions in 1 tablespoon of olive oil until translucent, not browned. In a bowl, combine the onions, ground beef, rice, remaining olive oil, dill, mint,cumin,turmeric, lemon juice, and pepper. Mix well by hand.

Gently separate one leaf and place it shiny side down on a work surface. Trim larger stems off with sharp knife. Place a pinch (up to a teaspoon) of the filling on the leaf at the point where the stem joined the leaf. Fold up the bottom of the leaf over the filling, then each side inward in parallel folds, and roll up the leaf. Roll should be firm, not tight, as the filling will expand during cooking. Repeat until all the filling has been used. I use a dolmade roller to make this much easier and quicker.


Because the leaves on the bottom can burn while the filling cooks, put a plate or wooden skewers in the bottom of a heavy-bottomed pot (see tip below). The plate should fit as closely as possible to the sides. If there are unused leaves, or leaves that were torn and not used during the filling process, put them on the plate or on top of the skewers. Place the stuffed leaves on top, packing them closely together (not squashed), seam side down, so they don't unroll during cooking. Layer them until all are in the pot (2-3 layers is best, but no more than 4 layers). Place several unused leaves over the top. Take another plate and place it upside down on top of the stuffed leaves, with something to weight it down (a second plate works well). Add 2 cups of beef stock or water to the pot and cover. Bring the beef stock or water to a gentle boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for approximately 50-70 minutes. (Note: if using water, add additional 3/4 cup lemon juice to the water for flavor. I much prefer beef stock). Check to see if done. If the rice has cooked, they are done. If not, continue cooking for another 10 minutes and check again. Cooking time depends both on the type of pot used and the particular stovetop element. (I have also done these in the crock pot on high for a couple of hours).

If preferred, use a pressure cooker. No plates needed, but do use the skewers in the bottom. Pack the stuffed grape leaves into the pressure cooker, add the 2 cups of water, close and cook for 15-20 minutes at the first pressure mark.

Serving:

Individual servings of stuffed grape leaves are 4-5 pieces on small plates as an appetizer, however they can also be used as a side or main dish. Serve them warm or at room temperature with avgolemono (egg and lemon sauce), lemon wedges, tzatziki, or unflavored yogurt on the side. If I have time, I make tzatziki; otherwise Fage makes a good one.

Storage:

These will keep well in the refrigerator for about 5 days. Return to room temperature before serving. Drizzle olive oil on top and cover to store. They can also be frozen. If you do freeze, reheat in the microwave or by steaming and serve warm. Don't just thaw and eat.

Tips:
1.If you don't have a plate that fits or skewers, line the bottom of the pan with unused or torn leaves.
2.Leftover filling can be used to make stuffed vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, and eggplant.
3.To make as a main course, use larger grape leaves and increase the amount of filling in each leaf to 1 tablespoon.

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