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Stuffed Grape Leaves~Dolmas

Dolmades with Tzatziki




Cascading Kitchen Notes

Life is busy and these dolmades are too good to miss, so here's an option that will get you most of the way to heavenly goodness while saving some time.

  1. Cook up meat veggie mixture as directed.
  2. Add 1.5 cups unsoaked, rinsed rice (I use brown basmati) to the cooked meat mixture
  3. Add 5 cups of stock to the mixture.  Cover, bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer and cook for 20 min.
  4. After 20 minutes, add fresh lemon juice (this is important) and cook for another 15 min.
  5. Serve w/ steamed cabbage or collard leaves that folks can roll at the table.
  6. Serve with Tzatziki or some vegetable filled, crunchy variation.

If you don't have grape leaves you can substitute steamed cabbage or collard leaves though you'll be missing that nice lemony flavor of the grape leaves.

This dolma recipe takes great advantage of 8 cups of julienned zucchini.  It uses 4 cups on the bottom of the cooking pot and four more cups in the stuffing mixture.  After the dolmas are cooked and removed from the pot you're left with a sumptuous, salubrious nectar that screams from the bottom of the pot, "Make me into the best soup you've ever supped!"  You must do it.

Stuffed grape leaves –Dolmas

OR Unstuffed Casserole you can roll at the table

(see the side column for the unstuffed version)

You can use grape leaves from a jar, (found in Mediterranean grocery stores) OR harvest young grape leaves and steam them before stuffing.

To Prepare:

You’ll need 30-40 leaves to make a full pot.

If you’re using fresh grape leaves:

Steam the washed grape leaves for 10 minutes before assembling with stuffing.

Soak the rice!

This is really important.

  • 1.5 cups of brown basmati rice ( or your choice of available rice) soaked in cold water for at least 20 min. If you can break a rice kernel with your thumbnail you’ll know it’s ready to go in the meat mixture.

The Cooking Pot

Prepare a large, enamel lined, cast iron pot for cooking.  You can use any large non-reactive stove top pot and lid.

You’ll also need a pie plate or a dish that is heat tolerant and will fit inside your cooking pot to place on top of the grape leaf rolls to stop them from floating.

In the bottom of your cooking pot:

  • Place 4 cups of shredded zucchini or sliced tomatoes or even a large diced onion to line the bottom of the pot. It will help protect the grape leaves from burning on the bottom but will also leave you with the beginnings of a great pot of soup!

The Cooking Liquid:

  • Heat up 5 cups of good stock (chicken or lamb or rich veggie) Taste for saltiness. Add more if needed.  This will flavor the stuffed grape leaves as they cook and provide the necessary liquid for the thus far uncooked rice.

Prepare the Lemons

  • Remove the zest before juicing and set aside 1 tsp for the meat stuffing.
  • Juice 2 large lemons (this will be added later in the cooking process)

The stuffing:

Sauté in 4 Tbs. olive oil over medium heat:

  • 1 large diced yellow onion-Cook until soft and translucent, about  20 min.


  • 2 heaping Tbs. cumin
  • ½ tsp. Allspice, be cautious with measuring
  • ½ tsp sea salt 
  • 4 cloves of minced garlic

Cook for 5 minutes until you smell the spices bloom


  • 1 lb of grass-fed Jubilee beef-spread out on top of onions and allow to slowly cook for 5-7 min.

                Resist the urge to poke at it. Let it brown and meld with the onions. 

If you’re using commercially grown beef it’s best to drain the fat. Toxins are stored in fat. You might have to add more spices after you’ve drained the fat.

After the meat has largely browned


  • 4 cups of julienned zucchini, let it cook down into the meat mixture.  There is no need to sweat the zucchini.  The water will evaporate in the cooking.

After the zucchini has cooked down for about ten minutes, remove the mixture from the heat and


  • 1 cup of chopped fresh mint
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1.5 cups of soaked, rinsed rice


Now the filling is ready to go in the grape leaves.

If you're pressed for time, check out the "side column" for folks who don't have the time to roll their own.


The Stuff


  1. Once the leaves are steamed, cut out the stem and the bottom few veins that are tough.
  2. Lay the leaf on your table, rough surface up.
  3. Place a heaping tablespoon of filling at the base of the leaf and fold it up like a burrito. Don’t roll them too tight or the rice won’t have room to expand as it cooks.
  4. Once rolled, place in the prepared, large enameled pot.
  5. Pack them close together. Once the first layer is filled lay a few uncooked grape leaves over the first layer and begin to build your second layer.


  • Pour ½ cup of olive oil over the whole stack of stuffed grape leaves.
  • Pour boiling stock (5 cups) over the stuffed grape leaves.

Weight the rolls down with a Pyrex pie plate( not metal) or a heat proof plate.


  1. Cover with a lid and bring to a boil on the stove top.
  2. Turn down to a simmer and cook for 25 minutes.
  3. After 25 minutes of cooking add the lemon juice (from 2  lemons) This needs to be fresh-not bottled.
  4. Cover and return to simmer for another 25-30 min.
  5. Turn off the heat and allow to cool in the liquid for at least 30 min.

Eat these at room temperature.

I like to use a pair of scissors to cut them in half as I plate them.

Serve with a yogurt dip like this Tzatziki.

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