Dolmades (pronounced: dohl-MAH-thes) are the Greek version of stuffed grape leaves. Stuffed grape leaves are a beloved food consumed all throughout Greece, the Balkans and the Middle East. This recipe for dolmades gialantzi is from my friend Peter Minaki a.k.a. Kalófagas. I first discovered Peter’s Greek food blog many years ago while learning more about my hubby’s culture. My in-laws were not initially accepting of me when I married their son (because I am not Greek). In an effort to prove to them that I was, in fact, committed to preserving their heritage, I studied their language, culture, and cuisine every day. Kalofagas.ca became a vital resource for me as I cooked my way into my in-laws’ hearts.
I am forever grateful to Peter for the incredible archive of recipes he has shared over the years. And I am truly honored that he has allowed me to share his recipe for these delicious dolmades gialantzi – stuffed grape leaves from his first cookbook Everything Meditteranean.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF STUFFED GRAPE LEAVES:
The first known stuffed leaf recipe was recorded circa 350 BC. It was known to the ancient Greeks as thrion which were made using fig leaves rather than grape leaves. Fig leaves were pickled and stored in much the same way as grape leaves are today and were commonly filled with cheese or fish. Τhe first written mention of a dish similar to dolmades actually appears in the diaries of a symposiast at one of the banquets of Iranian King Khusrow II at the start of the 7th century. The widespread use of the Turkish term dolma in the Mediterranean basin is a testament to the fact that the dish known as dolma was spread through the Ottoman conquests during the 15th and 16th centuries.
“There in short is the long and winding history of one of our favorite foods. We might claim it as our own, as every one of our neighbors does, but the dolma followed its own fateful path through history and time. It is a dish that belongs both to everyone and, alas, to no one.”On dolmades from gourmed.gr via foodtimeline.org
WHAT MAKES DOLMADES GIALANTZI SPECIAL?
“Dolmades” is the Greek plural form of the word dolma. Gialantzi is the Greek spelling for the Turkish word “yalancı” which translates to “fake.” So dolmades gialantzi technically translates to “fake dolmas” because there is no meat in the filling (lol)! Dolmades gialantzi are filled with a blend of rice, fresh herbs, onion, tomato & pine nuts (and they are actually vegan)!
If you have never tried a meatless dolma then you are in for a real treat! The flavors of the ingredients in the filling really shine in the absence of meat. And the texture is smooth and creamy thanks to the use of arborio rice in place of the typical long grain rice. Dolmades gialantzi, like any meatless dolma, are best enjoyed slightly warm or at room temperature with yogurt and lemon.
HOW TO MAKE DOLMADES – STUFFED GRAPE LEAVES
Making these glorious parcels is definitely a labor of love, but they are so worth it! Once you get the hang of how to wrap them, they actually start to come together pretty quickly.
Now that you know how to wrap a dolma, the next step is to layer them in a large oven safe covered vessel. Then they get topped off with olive oil, lemons & vegetable stock. The final step is to place an inverted plate over the dolmades. This acts as a weight to keep the dolmades fully submerged while they bake.
Dolmades may not be the most visually appetizing of foods, but they are beloved the world over for good reason. There is something so special and satisfying about food in a parcel! They are like little bundles of love. Maybe it’s the fact that they must be made by hand that makes them so memorable <3