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Shared by Mali Even-Hen

Dolma (Vegetarian Stuffed Grape Leaves)

Yield: 60 rollsTime: 2 hours 30 minutes

Dolma (Vegetarian Stuffed Grape Leaves)

Yield: 60 rollsTime: 2 hours 30 minutes

Family Journey

Iran
Israel

Stuffed grape leaves, often known as dolma, are seen on traditional tables in the Middle East, the Levant, and on the eastern side of the Mediterranean. They can be filled with everything from ground meat to grains. This vegetarian version, shared by Mali Even-Hen, is prepared in the Kurdish Jewish tradition with Persian influences (her mother was born in Iran), and has been passed down for generations. Here, lemony rice and tender herbs are wrapped in brine-packed grape leaves.  

“This is a festive dish that is prepared for special events and Shavuot,” Mali notes. The process is labor-intensive, but the recipe makes a large batch, which is ideal for feeding crowds during a holiday. “Because so much work is involved in rolling the leaves, one by one,” explains Mali, those who understand the labor involved in the dish only appreciate it more. “In our family and also among friends people really look forward to this dish — [it] disappears in an instant.” 

This recipe comes from a collaboration between Momentum and the Jewish Food Society. Find more recipes from this collection at "Recipes from the Momentum Community", created with the help of Rebecca Firsker and Ame Gilbert. 

Ingredients

Grape Leaves

  • 1 cups long-grain white rice
  • Cold water
  • ⅓ cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon plus ¼ teaspoon granulated sugar, divided
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped 
  • 1 cup finely chopped parsley leaves (from about 1 bunch)
  • 1 cup finely chopped cilantro leaves (from about 1 bunch)
  • 1 cup finely chopped dill fronds (from about 1 bunch)
  • 1 bunch (6 to 8) scallions, thinly sliced 
  • 1 (32-ounce) jar brine-packed grape leaves

Yogurt Sauce

  • 1 cup full-fat Greek yogurt 
  • 1 cup full-fat quark (or cottage cheese, ricotta, or sour cream)
  • 1 clove garlic, grated
  • 4 to 5 teaspoons finely chopped fresh dill
  • Kosher salt
Cooking ProjectsAppetizersShavuotVegetarianMiddle East

Preparation

  • Step 1

    Make the stuffed grape leaves: Place the rice in a medium bowl, cover with cold water, and soak for 20 minutes. Drain the rice into a sieve and rinse until water runs clear. Place the grape leaves in a large bowl of cold water and soak for a few minutes, then drain to remove some of the salty brine. Repeat, then pat the leaves dry with kitchen or paper towels.

  • Step 2

    Combine ⅓ cup of the oil, lemon juice, 1 tablespoon of the sugar, salt, and pepper in a large bowl and stir to combine. Stir in the drained rice and let this mixture soak for 10 minutes.

  • Step 3

    Stir in the chopped onion, parsley, cilantro, dill, and scallions to the bowl with the rice mixture and let sit for another 10 minutes.

  • Step 4

    Lay a few rinsed grape leaves, vein side up, on a work surface. Remove the stems with kitchen shears or a knife.

  • Step 5

    Place 1 heaping teaspoon of the rice mixture at the base of a grape leaf. Fold the stem end of the leaf over the filling, fold in both sides of the leaf, then roll up (not too tightly) into a cigar. Repeat with the remaining filling and grape leaves.

  • Step 6

    Arrange the filled grape leaves, seam-side down, in a single layer in a large heavy bottom pot, such as a Dutch oven, or wide saucepan with high sides. Arrange a second (or third) layer if needed, placing a pot lid or heat-proof dinner plate on top of each layer to weigh down the one below it.

  • Step 7

    Combine 4 cups of water, the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil, and the remaining ¼ teaspoon sugar in a medium bowl or liquid measuring cup. Pour this mixture over the grape leaves. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to low. Cover the pot and simmer until the rice inside the grape leaves is fully cooked and the leaves are tender, about 60 minutes. (Test this by slicing open and tasting a stuffed grape leaf)

  • Step 8

    Make the yogurt sauce: While the grape leaves cook, combine the yogurt, quark, garlic, and 4 teaspoons dill in a medium bowl. Taste and season with a small pinch of salt and the rest of the dill if desired. Chill until ready to serve.

  • Step 9

    Cool the grape leaves to room temperature. Serve with the yogurt sauce. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.