Tony’s Table: Dolmadakia
1 jar of grape leaves
2 cups rice, soaked in lukewarm water
1 bunch of dill, finely chopped, saving stems
1 large onion, minced
1 bunch of scallions, minced
1 leek, white section, finely chopped
1 small bunch of mint, finely chopped
3 tbsp. Greek olive oil
2 tbsp. lemon juice
½ tsp. lemon zest
Salt and pepper to taste
Pan set up for cooking:
1 onion, chopped
1-2 lemons, sliced into rounds
½-1 cup lemon juice
1-2 cup Greek olive oil
½-1 cup vegetable stock/broth or water
Grape leaves, as needed
First, the grape leaves must be prepared. In order to do this, drain the jar of grape leaves, then rinse them off to remove the excess liquid from the jar. After rinsing them, place in pot and fill with enough water that they are all immersed.
Bring this to a boil, and once boiling, turn the heat down a little bit, and allow them to cook for approximately 10 minutes or until the tough end stem can be pierced with a thumbnail. Then, drain the grape leaves and allow them to cool off a bit. Alternatively, you can run them under some cool water if it’s necessary to expedite the process.
Once they are cool enough to handle, remove the little end stem pieces from each leaf, and until ready to roll the dolmadakia, keep covered (so they don’t lose their moisture).
Now, to make the filling, you can either chop and mince everything by hand, or you can put the scallions, leeks, onions, mint, and dill in a food processor and chop it that way. Drain the rice, place in a bowl, and combine with the onions, leeks, scallions, mint, dill, olive oil, lemon zest and juice.
Add salt and pepper to taste, and let the mixture stand for about 10 minutes, so all the flavors start to infuse and blend together.
To roll your dolmadakia, take your grape leaves that you have boiled and de-stemmed, and with the vein side up, take a teaspoon to tablespoon (depending on how big or small you want your dolmadakia) of the rice filling mixture and place at the bottom of the grape leaf. Fold in each side of the leave, and then roll it to wrap up the rice mixture – ideally you don’t want any of the filling escaping from the rolled grape leaf. Repeat with the rest of the leaves and filling.
Now, with your dolmadakia rolled, in an appropriately sized pan, start with a layer of chopped onion, then on top of the onion place the lemon slices. Lastly, create a layer of overlapping grape leaves to cover the bed of onions and lemon underneath.
Then, arrange the dolmadakia in the pan on the bed you have created, as closely together as possible without compromising their structure – two layers of dolmadakia is ideal, but less is perfectly fine too. When all your dolmadakia are in the pan and arranged, pour the olive oil, lemon juice, and vegetable stock/broth/water on top of them.
Then arrange another layer of overlapping grape leaves (to seal in the moisture and to ‘tuck in’ your dolmadakia, since we created a bed for them underneath). Place a sheet of parchment paper on top, and then tightly seal with 3 pieces of foil. To cook them, you can bake at 325° F for approximately 2 hours. Once they’re done baking, allow them to cool slightly.
They may be served hot or cold.