Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Stuffed Grape Leaves (Dolmades)

This is a very special post for me! My parents recently gave me my grandparents' handwritten recipe book and it brought me to tears! I've mentioned so many times how much I regret not writing my family members' recipes down while they were still with us, and little did I know, someone already did! Why my parents neglected to tell me about this book until now, I have no idea, but I'm sure grateful it's finally mine! 

This picture is of me with my Papou :) my Dad's father, and the little card box he gave me. He used to come to our house and cook for us a few times a week. Food is pretty much the only tie I have to my Greek heritage so I am thrilled to have the recipe book of memories and traditions to pass on to my family some day! These Stuffed Grape Leaves, or Dolmades (I'll admit we only ever called them stuffed grape leaves) are my Papou's recipe and I am delighted and proud to share them with everyone :)

Stuffed Grape Leaves (Dolmades)
Makes about 30 stuffed grape leaves
Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour and 20 minutes

1/4 cup chopped red onion
1/2 Tbsp parsley
1/4 cup canned diced tomatoes
1/4 cup Uncle Ben’s rice (Papou’s recipe said specifically Uncle Ben’s)
1/4 tsp pepper
3/4 lb ground beef
30 grape leaves (about half of a 1 lb jar)
1 lemon

1. Chop onions, parsley, and tomatoes as finely as possible.
2. Mix ground beef, chopped onion, parsley, tomatoes, rice, and pepper.
3. Pat grape leaves with a paper towel to dry slightly. Place the shiny side of a grape leaf down and spread open. Place about 1/2 to 1 Tbsp of ground beef mixture at the base of the grape leaf. Fold the bottom part of the grape leaf around the ground beef mixture and roll up tightly. Place in a large pot seam side down. Repeat until all of the ground beef is used. Make one tightly packed layer in the pot before creating another layer.
4. Squeeze 1/2 lemon juice over the top of the grape leaves. Place a glass plate upside down on top of the grape leaves (to hold them down while they cook). Add water to the pot until it just reaches the edge of the plate. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low and simmer for 45 minutes. Cut one grape leaf open to see if the meat is fully cooked and no longer pink. Cook longer if necessary. Serve with lemon wedges. Enjoy! 

Chop the onions, parsley, ....

... and tomatoes as finely as possible.

Mix chopped onions, parsley, tomatoes, ground beef, pepper, and rice. The rice must be Uncle Ben's rice! Why? Papou said so apparently. And I listened. Hah!

The grape leaves come in a 1 lb jar and this recipe used about half of it. You can find them in the ethnic section of your grocery store, or by the pickles. Pat them with a paper towel to dry them a little. 

Place 1/2 to 1 Tbsp of the meat mixture at the base of the grape leaf in a little cylinder shape.

Wrap the bottom parts around the meat.

Wrap the sides in.

Roll up!

Wrap it tightly! Some of mine fell apart when they cooked and I think it was because I didn't roll them rightly enough. 

Repeat until all the meat is used. Place them seam side down in a large pot in a tightly packed single layer before you start a second layer. 

Squeeze the juice of half a lemon over the top and add water to just cover the grape leaves.

Place a glass plate on top of the grape leaves upside down. There should be just enough water in the pot to come to the edge of the plate. The plate is to hold the grape leaves down as they cook! Bring the water to a boil and reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 45 minutes. Cut one open to make sure they are done!

Serve with lemon wedges! It is kind of hard to describe how grape leaves taste to someone that's never tried them before. I attempted to explain them to my boyfriend and couldn't think of something to compare them to. I told him to just trust me! And he ended up loving them :) The jarred grape leaves are salty and have a very unique texture, definitely leafy but sturdy. The meat mixture contains all standard ingredients everyone has had, but the grape leaves are very unique. I found them in my grocery store, so stop by the ethnic section next time you're shopping and enjoy some Greek finger food!


  1. yum!! i took kyle to a cute /semiauthentic greek place in madison for his birthday and we had dolmades as an appetizer, i told him that i alwasy remembered your dad making them!!

  2. I REALLY missed these! My family used to make them all the time but hadn't in a while. I've had them at restaurants but I've realized this is one of those dishes that every family/restaurant makes differently. And these tasted like my childhood. :)

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