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Fresh Dolmades

So there’s these grape vines at our house. A lot of them…of varying species. We know one of them is juicy concord, but the rest remain a mystery. They are green and some are tasty, tangy, and tart and then there’s some that are completely flavourless. When we moved in last year they were obviously neglected and looked as if they had never been cut back at all.

So this year, being the entrepreneurial people that we are, we decided to cut them back and see what happened! After a few long months and no sign of growth, we thought for sure we had done it wrong, cut back too much. But a few weeks ago there were signs of some life. Small little buds were appearing and soon enough there were leaves!

The first question out of my husbands mouth was: “So when are we making dolmades?”

So it was with this question that I set off in search of the techniques required to cook and eat grape leaves. I’d never been a fan of dolmades really, because I hate the taste of the preserved leaves, but these my friends are glorious! Tasty, fresh and part of the zero mile diet, you just can’t go wrong!

Fresh Dolmades

Yield: Approximately 30 dolmades
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes

About 30-40 young grape leaves, fresh (about palm sized)
1/4 cup olive oil
small handful of green onions, thinly diced
1 cup short grain white rice
juice of 1 lemon, divided into two parts
1/4 cup of fresh dill, parsley and mint, minced
fresh ground salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup of water
1/4 cup olive oil
water

1. Rinse fresh grape leaves and stack in a large bowl. Blanch by pouring boiling salted water over and allowing to sit for 5 minutes or so. Drain well in colander.
2. In a large sauté pan, heat 1/4 cup of olive oil and add onions. Sauté until softened.
3. Add in rice, half of lemon juice, all the herbs, salt and pepper and 1/2 a cup of water. Bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes. Turn heat off and allow to sit for 10-15 minutes.

To assemble the dolmades:

1. Take a teaspoon of filling and place at the stem end of one grape leaf. At about 3/4 of the way to the end, fold over each side into the middle and continue rolling until done.
2. Line the bottom of a heavy pot with more grape leaves (unused) and line that with your finished dolmades, seam side down to prevent explosions. Layering is okay! Pour a 1/4 cup of olive oil over and the remaining water (make sure to just cover the pile).
3. Place a pot lid smaller than the pot you used on top of the pile and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium high and cook for another 15-20 minutes.
4. Squeeze the remaining lemon juice over and gently shake, careful not to break any dolmades!
5. Remove from pot and set aside to cool.
6. Serve with Tangy Yogurt Sauce (recipe follows).

Tangy Yogurt Sauce

Yield: 1 1/4 cups
Prep Time: 15 minutes

2 cups Balkan style yogurt, plain
juice of half a lemon
fresh ground salt and pepper to taste
1 Tbsp fresh dill, minced
1 Tbsp fresh mint, minced
1-2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
2 Tbsp sour cream

1. Strain yogurt through cheese cloth lined colander set over a bowl for 2-4 hours. When done scrape thickened yogurt into a small bowl.
2. Add remaining ingredients and allow to sit for a bit (even overnight is fine) before serving.

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