Have you ever thought about making your own dolmas, those miraculous pouches of gustatory goodness? Most of us get our dolmas the easy way—from our local Greek deli. The concept is simple enough on its face: grape leaves stuffed with rice, fresh herbs, spices, maybe some chopped nuts or fruit, sometimes meat. But, like Chinese dumplings or ravioli, unless you plan to make a large quantity, it just seems easier to take what the deli has to offer.
And if you’re like me, at some point you decide it’s time to make your own at home, never mind whether it’s a big batch or not. So you start researching recipes. That’s when the disappointment begins. The time and effort that will be expended on this simple finger food seems all out of whack. My guess is that this out-of-whackness stems from some sort of need for tradition and authenticity. I’ve written about that irksome word, authenticity, before.
This is where I found myself recently. Thinking about making dolmas. I was about to hang it up, when I decided screw it, I’m making my own version of dolmas with a bunch of leftovers and a ticking clock, authenticity be damned. It took less than 20 minutes from start to finish. Here’s the ingredient list and captain’s log:
1 dozen large dock leaves (more on those later)
2 – 3 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
1/2 yellow onion, diced
2 – 3 cloves garlic, diced
2 cups cooked rice
1 large lemon, juiced
1 large handful mint & parsley, chopped
salt and pepper
Minute 1: Pick several large dock leaves in front yard. Put pot of water on the boil.
Minute 3: Dice leftover onion half.
Minute 4: Chop two cloves of garlic.
Minute 5: Blanche five dock leaves one at a time for 30 seconds each; remove to paper towels, careful not to tear leaves.
Minute 8: Add a couple tablespoons of olive oil to skillet over medium heat. Sweat onions and garlic.
Minute 9: Pick large handful of parsley and mint from herb garden. Chop together.
Minute 11: Add two cups of leftover white rice to skillet. Stir together, then kill heat.
Minute 12: Squeeze large lemon, about 1/4 cup juice, and add to skillet. Add herbs. Season with salt and pepper, plus more olive oil if necessary. Stir well.
Minute 14: Begin wrapping dock leaves with rice mixture. Use burrito technique, folding over two spoonfuls of rice and tucking corners before rolling up.
Minute 18: Arrange dolmas on plate. Drizzle with olive oil and a sprinkling of course sea salt.
Now, because I was in a hurry, I only made four finished dolmas (though this amount of rice mixture will make a dozen), and they were not up to my usual rolling standards (burrito and otherwise), but the point is I made a very tasty snack with a nutritious backyard weed and some leftovers in a brief window of time.
As for the dock, it’s a weed, no doubt very nutritious. You’ve all seen it before. Genus Rumex. Lots of different species, some more sour (curly dock), some more bitter (broad-leaved dock). The idea for making dolma wrappers came out of the blue. I’ve been watching this weed in my front yard for a couple weeks now, marveling at its rapid growth, when it occurred to me that the leaves would make good wrappers.