Having grown up eating the foods you did on a regular basis would typically leave people thinking that with options you may choose a different type of food to eat. Which for me can sometimes be the case only when I’m craving a particular type of food. Otherwise, Mediterranean cuisine certainly remains as one of my favorite types of food I never get tired of. When food is super clean, fresh and naturally full of flavor I find myself never wanting the deep fried, greasy stuff over it.
When I was growing up one of my favorite dishes was stuffed zucchini flowers. It wasn’t around often because the flowers were seasonal but I remember how excited I was when they were around and they never lasted long! I’ve also had my fair share of stuffed grape leaves from friends, restaurants and even at Whole Foods food counter and fell in love with them because they reminded me so much of the stuffed zucchini flowers I loved so much as a kid.
THEN, I had a fantastic opportunity to spend some time around Greece. I ventured into restaurants that you would find locals dining at and even had the time to learn how to cook some authentic Greek and Cretan dishes. It wasn’t until we spent this time in the Mediterranean that I found myself in an abundance of dolmades (stuffed grape leaves) and some of the best tasting ones to date. I’m convinced that I’ll never find any better than the ones in Greece until of course I decided to take into account all the flavors I’ve experienced from various sources and allow my time in Greece become my biggest influence to make some of the best dolmas EVER!
So this recipe really encompasses all the flavors that I love in a stuffed grape leaf. A hint of cinnamon to compliment the tiny bits of ground lamb mixed with rice, herbs and fresh lemon juice make for the perfect bite. They’re simply addicting with my home made tzatziki that we learned how to make during our time on the island of Crete. This may appear labor intensive but honestly this recipe breaks it down so easily that preparation won’t take long at all so you can get down to stuffing your grape leaves. It’s well worth it! Unless you have a family member or friend that knows how to make these you’ll probably never want to order these from a restaurant again!