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Homemade Dolmades - stuffed grape leavesI love Spring.  It’s finally warm enough for me to get back into my garden and get my hands dirty.  It also means I can start growing fresh vegetables again.  I love saying “I am heading out to the market – and open my back door to my herb and veggie garden.  Nothing tastes better than fresh herbs and vegetables.

In the same area as my herbs is my one and only grape vine.  I don’t have a lot of garden space so I use it judiciously.  My vine produces just enough grapes to share with us and the wasps – although I hope to deploy a strategy on that soon.  The other thing my vine produces is grape leaves.  And that means Dolmades – stuffed grape leaves.  Today is dolmade day around here and I thought I’d share some photos I took a couple of years ago of this process.  The only thing different from the photos is I am using ground lamb today for more of a true middle eastern flavor.

Here’s the link to the photos and below is a recipe I like – although like most things I cook – this is more of a suggestion.

https://picasaweb.google.com/117134876064181475245/MakingDomadesStuffedGrapes

INGREDIENTS:Makes about 50 dolmades
● 1 jar preserved grape leaves, drained 
- I use fresh – just pick young leaves, remove stem, soak in hot water a few minutes)
● ½ cup longgrain (Basmati) rice
● ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
● 1 onion, finely chopped
● 3 cloves garlic, minced
● ½ pound lean ground lamb
● 1 teaspoon dried oregano
● Salt and freshly ground black pepper
● 4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled finely or grated (I tend to leave this out – not sure why, just do)
● 
3 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
● 
2 tablespoons finely chopped mint
● 1 teaspoon sugar (I leave this out – and instead use cinammon)
● 
Juice of 1 lemon
● 
1 lemon sliced, for garnish
● Mint leaves, for garnish

DIRECTIONS:

  1. 
Carefully separate the grape leaves, place in a large bowl and pour boiling water over them to cover. Let the leaves soak for 20 minutes, then drain and rinse to remove excess salt.
  2. Drain the leaves, snip off the stems (reserving stems), and lay the leaves on a towel to dry.
  3. In a saucepan, bring 2 cups of salted water to a boil, and stir in the rice. Cover, reduce the heat to low and cook rice until water is absorbed, about 17 to 20 minutes.
  4. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a skillet, add the onion and saute until soft, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and saute one more minute. Add the lamb and cook until the meat is well browned, breaking it apart with a fork while cooking, about 15 minutes. Add the oregano, cinammon and salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the feta and remove from the heat. Stir in the rice, parsley and mint.
  5. Place one leaf on a flat surface, vein side up, shiny side down. Place a rounded teaspoon of filling in the center of the leaf, near the stem edge. Fold the stem end over the filling, then fold both sides toward the middle, and form into a roll. Squeeze lightly in the palm of your hand to secure the roll. Repeat process with remaining leaves and filling.
  6. Line the bottom of a 3 quart heavy saucepan with reserved stems, trimmings and any leftover or torn grape leaves, and arrange bundles seam sides down, packing them close together in layers.
  7. Combine the remaining ¼ cup olive oil with 3/4 cup water, the sugar, and lemon juice, and pour over the stuffed grape leaves.
  8. Place a small, heatproof plate on top of the stuffed leaves, cover the pan and simmer over low heat for about 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until leaves are tender and most of the liquid is absorbed.
  9. Serve warm, or at room temperature, garnished with lemon slices and mint leaves
Enjoy. Ciao y'all.