Turkish Stuffed Grape Leaves (Dolmas)
Stuffed grape leaves and cabbage are ubiquitous - and used with great variety - in the cuisines of the Jews throughout the Diaspora. In this dish, the combination of sweet spices along with pine nuts and raisins demonstrates a strong Arab influence.
- Heat a large skillet for 20 seconds. Add 2 Tablespoons of olive oil and heat for 10 seconds. Sauté the onion for 5 minutes. Add the garlic, sauté until the onions are lightly golden, and place in a 2-quart mixing bowl.
- Soak the separated grape leaves in a bowl of warm water for 5 minutes while you make the filling.
- Add the rice, scallions, dill, parsley, mint, cinnamon, allspice, pine nuts, and raisins to the onion mixture. Season with salt and pepper.
- Remove the leaves from the bowl of water and rinse under cold running water. Separate the leaves and place them shiny side down on a board. If the leaves are small, place two together, overlapping at the stem end.
- Place 2 teaspoons of the rice mixture near the stem end of the leaves and roll up the leaf once to cover the filling. Fold in both sides of the leaf and then tightly roll the leaf up toward the tip, making a neat roll.
- Place some broken vine leaves or lettuce leaves in the bottom of a 4-quart pot or Dutch oven (so the rolls won't stick to the bottom of the pan) and then arrange the rolls in the pot seam side down. Repeat with the remaining leaves and filling, piling the rolls on top of each other as necessary.
- Combine the remaining 2/3 cup oil, lemon juice, 2/3 cup of water, and sugar and pour the mixture over the rolls.
- Place a weight (a heavy plate will do) on top of the rolls and simmer, covered, for 40 minutes. Check that the water mixture hasn't boiled off; if it has, add 1/2 cup water and cook another 10 minutes.
- Cook for a total of 50 minutes, or until the rice in the rolls is tender.
- Cool for about 1 hour, then remove the rolls from the pot.
- Serve your delicious rolls cool or at room temperature.
- Dolmas can be made in advance and stored in the refrigerator.
- Never use lemon juice from a bottle; it bears no resemblance to the real thing.
- When buying lemons, scrape the outside with your fingernail and sniff. The fragrance will indicate the flavor of the lemon juice.