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Sunday, June 10, 2007

Dolma (vegetarian) - Stuffed Grape Leaves

This is one of the main dishes in the Middle East. It can be served hot for lunch or dinner as the main entrée. Grape leaves can be served cold in small numbers as appetizers prior to the main entrée or as snacks while drinking hard liquor. I personally consume them both ways. In fact, I enjoy some wine even when it is my main entrée!. In Iraq, the term Dolma encompasses various stuffed vegetables in addition to grape leaves. In our kitchen, we also stuff 2-3 small zucchinis, eggplants, tomatoes, onion skins, and bell peppers. It is in fact the most targeted meal at our house hold when some friends are invited. We do not have to worry about what is left. The left over is usually packed to go! The left over can be kept in the refrigerator for later times and can be heated in microwave.
Dolma can be modified in several ways, for meat eaters! You can add ground beef or ground lamb to the stuffing, and the grape leaves can be replaced with chard or cabbage. Some times a mixture of all can be prepared in the same pot.

Makes 60 Pieces

70 fresh or preserved grape leaves
¼ cup lemon juice
1 ½ cup water
¼ cup olive oil


1 cup rice, washed and drained
¼ cup oil olive
1 cup parsley, finely chopped
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finally chopped
1 large tomato, finely chopped or 1 small can of tomato paste
50 grams of Tamarind (turned into molasses)
Some salt and pepper as required


In a large bowl, add all stuffing ingredients and mix well.
If leaves are fresh, wash and leave in boiling water for 3 minutes, rinse with cold water, and then drain well. If the leaves are preserved, rinse with cold water, and then drain well.
Spread a leaf, shiny side down, on a cutting board, place a tablespoon of stuffing towards the stem end. Fold the edges of the leaf in towards the center. Fold the top down tightly until it reaches the leaf point. Repeat with remaining leaves.
Line the base of a heavy pan with grape leaves, place filled grape leaves seam side down, in closely packed rows. Cover with remaining grape leaves.
Pour water, lemon juice, salt and pepper as required into the pot, place a heavy plate on top to keep the filled grape leaves from moving during cooking.
Bring to boil, cover and cook over low heat for 20-30 minutes or until done.

Samir and Layla Johna


B. Ramana said...

Samir and Layla,
Thanks for that bit of exotica!
Is one supposed to eat the grape leaf, or unnwrap it and then eat only the stuffing?
Is there any alternative to grape leaves?

Samir Johna, MD said...

Yes, the grape leaves and any other vegetable are eaten with the stuffing as one unit! Alternatives to grape leaves is Chard and cabbage,