Stuffed Grape Leaves (Dolmades Nistisimi, Dereve Pattoug)
Stuffed grape leaves, a recipe that’s a perfect example of using easily available ingredients, have been served throughout Greece and the surrounding area for centuries. This recipe uses grape leaves prepared in brine as an edible wrapper for a sweet and savory mixture of rice, herbs, dried currants, and pine nuts.
Stuffed grape leaves can be served as one of many mezedes or as part of a Greek salad. You also can serve them as a light meal with some feta cheese and sliced tomatoes, with the whole thing sprinkled with a bit of salt and oregano and drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil.
Accompany with warm pita bread or other flatbread. Stuffed grape leaves are called dolmades nistisimi in Greece and dereve pattoug in Armenia.
Preparation time: 60 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes
Yield: Approximately 40 pieces
1 cup olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1⁄2 cup chopped mixed fresh herbs such as flat-leaf parsley, mint, and dill
2⁄3 cup short-grain rice
1⁄4 cup dried currants
1⁄4 cup pine nuts
1 tablespoon salt
1⁄4 teaspoon black pepper
2 jars (8 ounces each) brine-packed grape leaves, drained
1-1⁄2 cups water
1⁄3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
Lemon wedges (optional)
Greek-Style Yogurt (optional)
Heat 1⁄2 cup of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until soft. Add the herbs, rice, currants, pine nuts, salt, and pepper.
Cook for 5 minutes longer. Remove from the heat.
Blanch the grape leaves in batches in a 6-quart pot of boiling water for approximately 1 minute. Rinse under cold water and drain.
Place the leaves on a clean work surface, shiny side down. Remove any stems with scissors. Cover the bottom of the pot with a single layer of grape leaves, being sure to use any torn leaves first.
Place a tablespoon of filling near the stem of each remaining grape leaf. Roll once.
Fold in the two sides of the leaf and continue rolling. Place the stuffed grape leaves, seam side down, in the pot lined with grape leaves, in tightly packed rows. When the bottom is covered, begin making a second layer.
Cover the grape leaves with the remaining 1⁄2 cup olive oil, the water, and lemon juice. If the leaves aren’t completely covered in liquid, add additional water.
Invert a heavy plate on top to keep the grape leaves from unrolling. Cover the pot and bring the liquid to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes.
Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature. Serve on a plate with lemon wedges and thick Greek-Style Yogurt, if desired.
Special tool: Cheesecloth or paper coffee filter
Preparation time: 12 hours
Yield: Approximately 1-1⁄4 cups
2 cups plain active-culture whole-milk yogurt with no additives or flavorings
Line a large mesh strainer with several layers of cheesecloth or a paper coffee filter.
Place the strainer over a large bowl. Spoon the yogurt into the prepared strainer.
Cover with plastic wrap and let drain in the refrigerator overnight.
Discard the liquid in the bowl and spoon thickened yogurt into a clean, dry glass jar.