stuffed vine leaves are fairly common throughout the Middle East andin Turkey, and a Greek, while acknowledging the fact, will suggest thatit was because the Greeks brought them to the region. As a matter offact, some Greeks will tell you that the origin of stuffed vine leavesgoes back to the time when Alexander the Great besieged Thebes. Foodbecame so scarce that the Thebans cut what meat they had into littlebits and rolled it in grape leaves.
Later, it has beensuggested, the Byzantines refined and spiced the preparation and fillednot only grape leaves but leaves of other vines as well as the leavesfrom hazelnut, mulberry and fig trees. Such tales support the Greekcontention that the concept of the dish rests in their history and helpexplain the universality of stuffed vine leaves throughout the MiddleEast. Greek food - with its heavy reliance on lamb, on baked dishesthick with olive oil and eggplant, on pungent, unsubtle spices - isquite similar to Middle Eastern cookery. Differences occur in emphasis.
The stuffed vine leaves of Greece, also called dolmathes, arefilled largely with minced lamb, a bit of rice and touches of suchother ingredients as crushed mint, fennel or parsley leaves, dill,garlic, pine nuts or currants and are served either hot with a chickenbroth and lemon-based sauce called avgolemono or cold with a touch ofolive oil. In Turkey they are dolma, in Iran dolmeh, and their basis ismore rice than meat. They will invariably also contain pine nuts andcurrants. Throughout the Middle East vine leaves and leaves of spinach,Swiss chard and cabbage are served stuffed. But in Greece thetraditional dolmades are only of fresh, firm, springy grape leaves, andtheir filling is almost always spiced lamb. And only in Greece are theyserved with avgolemono sauce.
When hot - and sauced - dolmadesare occasionally served as one course of a larger meal. More often,however, the leaves - cold or at room temperature and daubed with a bitof olive oil - are served as a part of the mezes, or hors d'oeuvres,that precede just about all Greek meals. They include such preparationsas tzatziki (cucumber, garlic and yogurt salad), taramosalata (a pinkpuree made from fish roe), keftedes, (spicy, garlic-laden meatballs),spanakopites (tiny triangular spinach pies) and meletzanasalata (apaste of spiced, cooked eggplant).
|1 jar (1 pound) grape leaves in vinegar |
|1/2 cup finely chopped red onion |
|2 tablespoons butter |
|2 cloves garlic, chopped |
|1/4 teaspoon ground cumin |
|1/2 pound ground beef |
|1 cup uncooked white rice |
|1-1/2 teaspoon dried mint |
|2-1/4 cups water |
|3/4 teaspoon salt |
|1/8 teaspoon black pepper |
|3 tablespoons all-purpose flour |
|1/2 cup water |
| Dressing: |
|1/2 cup lemon juice (about 4 lemons) |
|1 tablespoon snipped fresh dill |
|1/4 teaspoon salt |
|1/8 teaspoon black pepper |
|2 teaspoons sugar |
|1 teaspoon Dijon mustard |
|1 cup olive oil |
|1. Boil grape leaves in 6 cups boiling water until tender, 20 to 25 minutes. |
|2. In second saucepan, saut¿onion in butter 3 minutes, until slightly softened. Add garlic andcumin; cook 2 minutes. Add beef; cook, breaking apart with woodenspoon, 5 minutes. Add rice and mint; cook, stirring, 3 minutes. Addwater, salt, pepper. Simmer, uncovered, stirring, 7 minutes. Cover;simmer 13 minutes. |
|3. Whisk flour and 1/2 cup water in small cup. Add to rice; cook 2 minutes. Remove from heat. |
|4. Dressing: Mix juice, dill, salt, pepper, sugar and mustard in bowl. Whisk in oil. |
|5. Drain leaves; rinse with cool water. Add 1/3 cup dressing to rice. |
|6. Place steamer or steamer insert in large pot with 2 inches of water. |
|7. Lay 1 leaf flat, smooth sideup, on work surface. Place 1 tablespoon filling on center of base ofleaf . First fold over one side of leaf, then fold over other side.Beginning at bottom of leaf, roll up tightly to leaf point (photo 4).Place, seam side down, into steamer basket. Continue with remainingleaves and filling. |
|8. Steam 35 to 40 minutes, until tender. Remove to platter. Drizzle with remaining dressing. Makes 4 dozen. |
Nutrition facts per serving:
stuffed grape leaves calories:77
Stuffed Grape Leaves and Weight Loss / Diet-- Vegetarian Grape Leaves are great diet food because they are rich in nutrients and low in animal protein. Also called Middle Eastern Grape Leaves.