Yaprakia/Dolmathes (Stuffed Grape Leaves)

“My mom was a great cook. She cooked mainly Greek-style peasant food because that's what my dad insisted on. Stuffed grape leaves were her hallmark dish! [They were the] best and our family could never get enough of them. My husband especially loved them, so they became his standing birthday, Christmas and Father’s Day present from her. Eventually, she was unable to cook them any longer, and I took over the responsibility.”

Recipe courtesy of the mother of iVillage member shambo

Yaprakia/Dolmathes (Stuffed Grape Leaves)

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    Ingredients

    1 (16-ounce) jar grape leaves (approximately 50 leaves) 1 tablespoon oregano
    1 large onion, finely chopped 1/2 cup chopped, fresh parsley (optional)
    2 to 4 cloves garlic, finely minced 1 teaspoon salt
    2 tablespoons olive oil 1/2 teaspoon pepper
    1 cup long-grain white rice 1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef or lamb
    1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce Juice of one lemon
    1 tablespoon mint Beef, chicken or vegetable broth
    1 tablespoon dill

    directions

    Prep: 30 min Total: More than 60 min
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    • 1

      Remove rolls of grape leaves from jar and unroll. Rinse under cold water and drain well in a colander. Set aside badly torn leaves for later use. Cut stems off grape leaves.

    • 2

      Saute onion and garlic in olive oil until translucent; cool. In a large bowl, mix together rice, onion mixture, tomato sauce, mint, dill, oregano, parsley (if using), salt and pepper. Add ground beef or lamb and mix thoroughly.

    • 3

      Place a grape leaf, vein side up and with stem pointing toward you, in your hand or on work surface. Place about a tablespoon of filling (depending on size of leaf) on the part of the leaf where the stem begins (near the center). The filling should form a narrow cylinder; do not overfill or the rolls will burst during cooking. Tuck in side edges to secure filling. Roll away from you toward the tip or point of the leaf, forming a small cylinder approximately 2 1/2 inches long and 3/4 inches wide. Do not wrap too loosely or the roll will come undone during cooking.

    • 4

      Stovetop Method: In a 5-quart Dutch oven, line bottom with a single layer of the reserved torn grape leaves. Place rolls in pot, seam side down, tightly together and in concentric circles, layer upon layer. You want a tight fit so the rolls don't unravel when cooking. Continue until all rolls are in pot. Any leftover filling may be rolled in cabbage or lettuce leaves, or made into tiny meatballs and placed on top of rolled grape leaves in pot. (Optional: Cover top with another single layer of the reserved torn grape leaves.) Cover rolls completely with broth and lemon juice.

    • 5

      Place a heavy plate that fits inside the pot upside down over the rolls as a weight to keep leaves from unrolling. For good measure, place a clean rock or stone on top of the plate to secure the plate and the rolls. Cover pot and bring to slow simmer. Simmer gently about 75 to 90 minutes or until rice is tender. Remove from heat when done. Let stand covered for 15 to 20 minutes before serving.

    • 6

      Baked Method: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a 13x9-inch baking dish, line bottom with a single layer of the reserved torn grape leaves. Place rolls in baking dish, seam side down and in rows, layer upon layer. You want a tight fit so the rolls don't unravel when cooking. Continue until all rolls are in baking dish. Cover top with another single layer of the reserved torn grape leaves.

    • 7

      Cover rolls completely with broth and lemon juice. Cover pan with aluminum foil that has been greased on the inside. Bake 75 to 90 minutes until both meat and rice are done. Let stand covered for 15 to 20 minutes before serving.

    • 8

      Note: My mom always made the dolmathes in her pressure cooker, so that's how I make them. It takes only 35 minutes. Yaprakia/Dolmathes may be served hot, warm or cold. If hot or warm, serve with avgolemono sauce prepared from the broth or with plain, unflavored yogurt. If cold, serve with plain, unflavored yogurt.

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