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STUFFED GRAPE LEAVES

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!

Print Recipe
STUFFED GRAPE LEAVES
Servings
dolmades
Ingredients
TZATZIKI SAUCE
STUFFED GRAPE LEAVES
Servings
dolmades
Ingredients
TZATZIKI SAUCE
STUFFED GRAPE LEAVES
Instructions
TZATZIKI SAUCE
  1. Using a potato peeler, peel the cucumber into strands up until you get to the seeds. Throw the seedy center part away. Place the strands of cucumber on a plate, sprinkle the salt on top, mix, and let sit for about 15 minutes to draw out the water.
  2. In the mean time, mix the Greek yogurt, crushed garlic, and = olive oil in a medium bowl.
  3. Grab the cucumber and squeeze the remaining excess of water out of it and chop the cucumber strands. Combine the cucumber in with everything else, add salt to taste and let it chill in the fridge for at least an hour or overnight.
STUFFED GRAPE LEAVES
  1. Gently remove the grape leaves out of the jar, rinse them with cold water and set them aside on a large plate.
  2. In a large bowl mix together the rice, onion, dill, cinnamon, mint, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Then mix in the ground lamb using a spoon to break it apart in bits within the rice mixture.
  3. Using one grape leaf at a time use about a teaspoon or so of the mixture slightly at the base of the leaf, fold the ends over and roll it up kind of like you would for a burrito. Make sure it's not super tight so that when the rice expands the grape leaves don't break apart.
  4. Line the bottom of a large pot with the broken grape leaves that you were unable to use. Place the prepared dolmas lined up on the bottom and stack them evenly.
  5. Place 4-5 slices of lemon on top of that and squeeze the rest of the lemon juice over everything. Pour the water into the pot and top everything with a heavy plate. If the stuffed grape leaves aren't completely submerged under water then add more water until they are.
  6. Over medium-high heat bring the pot to a boil then reduce the temperature to simmer for about 40 minutes. When done, drain any excess water and serve with tzatziki sauce.