These gorgeous Greek morsels – one of the country’s most celebrated dishes—take a little time to put together. But the end result is worth it: irresistible bundles stuffed with a mixture of rice, fresh herbs, and lemon. Rice, once extremely hard to come by, was considered a luxury item in Greece until around the 1960s – especially in Ikaria, whose humble local economy explains its more austere version of the traditional Greek diet. As a result, Ikarians traditionally stuffed their dolmades, whether made with grape leaves, cabbage, or collard leaves, with corn instead of rice. These can be a main dish with good crusty bread and fresh tomatoes, or a side or appetizer to a larger meal.
1⁄3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 cup uncooked long-grain white rice
1⁄2 large onion, finely chopped
1⁄4 cup chopped fresh dill
1⁄4 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
4 cups good-quality low-sodium vegetable broth, divided
1⁄4 to 1⁄3 cup fresh lemon juice, divided
30 grape leaves,* drained and rinsed
In a large pan, sauté at medium heat 2 tablespoons olive oil, rice, onion, dill, and mint for about 6-7 minutes.
Stir in half of the broth and bring to a boil.
Once boiling, immediately reduce heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until rice is almost cooked through.
Add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, stir, and remove from heat.
On a clean surface, place one grape leaf with the stem facing up and the shiny side down.
Place 1 heaping teaspoon of the rice mixture at the stem end of the leaf.
Fold both sides of the leaf toward the center; then roll up from the stem to the top.
Place rolled grape leaf into a large pot, seam side down.
Repeat this process until your rice mixture or leaves are gone, placing the stuffed leaves right next to each other with no space in between—this keeps them from opening during cooking.
Sprinkle rolled grape leaves with remaining lemon juice and olive oil.
Pour the rest of the broth to just cover the grape leaves; cover pot and cook on medium heat.
Lower heat as necessary to keep pot at a low simmer.
Make sure not to boil, which will make the grape leaves burst.
Simmer for about 50 minutes.
Remove from heat and let cool without cover for 15-20 minutes before serving.
*You can find grape leaves at specialty markets or online retailers.
The Blue Zones Kitchen fuses scientific reporting, National Geographic photography and 100 recipes that may help you live to 100. The Blue Zones’ food tradition is going the way of the dodo bird, thanks to the encroachment of the American Food Culture.Learn More