Making Dolma

As I mentioned in a previous post, my mother and two of my sisters, Caryn and Jessica, came to visit a couple weekends ago. Once we get into the kitchen, we are an unstoppable force. I think we could whip up a full wedding menu in two days if we had to.

But not so much on that scale, I wanted to make Dolma — A Middle-Eastern delight of stuffed grape leaves. Our father (he was taken from us too soon) was Assyrian, which is an ethnic group that dates back to one of the world’s great empires in the “fertile crescent,” pre-dating even those of Greece and Rome. Our mother, one the other hand, is Hungarian and Croatian. They have a similar dish called Sarma, which uses cabbage leaves with a meat/rice filling.

The dishes that we grew up with, interspersed with good ‘ol American fare, shared many similarities with the Middle Eastern and Mediterranean dishes that we eat today. But there are differences. For example, our Dolma a is a meat dish, usually ground lamb, served as an entree and flavored with lemon, dill, onion and garlic. Today, it is an appetizer and mostly vegetarian, with a vinegary taste.

Making Dolma is a process, but if you do pre-work –even the day before — the preparation of these little packets of deliciousness is easy and fun. Add lots of chatter, and, of course, a glass of wine, which never hurts.

Here you go!

We par-boiled the basmati rice the day before, then added it to the ground lamb mixture. The lamb mixture includes onions and garlic that have been sautéed in olive oil, chopped parsley and dill.

The grape leaves:

Remove grape leaves from their jar and place in a large bowl. Cover with boiling water and soak for 10-15 minutes. Pour cold water over to rinse. Ease leaves apart and dry them. Cut any stem off with scissors or a knife. Larger, tougher leaves should be placed in the bottom of a large cast-iron dutch oven.

Now you can start assembling the “envelopes.”

lay grape leaf on towel. Add scant teaspoon of lemon juice to leaf

Add small amount of lamb mixture on top of lemon juice

Start folding the edges of the leaf tightly over the meat mixture.

and there you have it!

place dolmas in a single layer in the dutch oven

cover them with layer of open grape leaves and repeat process

cover with chicken broth

add plate and grape leaves jar (sideways) full of water on top of dolmas.

With lid in place, simmer on stove top for one to two hours. The tasting to see if they are done is the best — make sure rice is cooked through and meat is browned and tender.

Serve with basmati rice and baked tomatoes. Just wonderful and comforting!

#dolmas #middleeasterncooking #cooking #assyriancooking

4 thoughts on “Making Dolma

    1. It was really fun Jessie! So sorry we didn’t get a picture of the finished product on the dinner plate — dolma, basmati rice, baked tomatoes. Bummer.


  1. I love your dolma post!! Looks delicious!! 🙂


    Clara Donaldson, Ed.S., LCPC Clinical Prof. Counselor & Mental Health Consultant | Violinist | Violin Teacher B.Mus., Violin Performance, Northwestern University Ed.S., Clinical Mental Health Counseling, Loyola University Chicago 937-901-7152



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