Do I need to introduce you to dolmas? You may have seen them called dolmades. They are those rice-stuffed grape leaves that frequently grace fancy appetizer platters. You may have also had them at your favorite Middle Eastern restaurant.
The rice inside the rolled grape leaf is lemony, creamy, and sometimes speckled with ground lamb. The flavors are bright and fresh—dill, lemon and parsley. It’s hard to believe so much flavor is packed into one little bite. I’ve never been known to stop at just one dolma on the appetizer platter.
If you have a fancy grocery store in your area, you can find them in the olive bar area. Also, if you’re wondering just how many dolmas you can pack into the plastic cups they give you for olives, it’s eight. I pretend I’m playing Lincoln Logs, and pack them like sardines into the plastic bin.
So, since I clearly have an addiction, I thought I would make them at home. But, after glancing at the homemade recipes online, and deciding I didn’t have an entire afternoon to devote to one craving (by the time I finished, I’d be craving cupcakes anyway), I decided to make the next best thing: a rice bowl that has all the flavors of a dolma. I served a few sliced dolmas on top to really hit the flavor profile home.
My favorite dolmas are the vegetarian ones; they have an herbier flavor. So, this rice bowl is vegetarian. You could sauté a little ground lamb with the onions, and make it a meat dolma bowl.
You may have to make a trip to the international grocery store to find grape leaves in a jar. It’s a trip well worth it, since you can use the rest of the jar to make this recipe many more times. While you’re there, grab barberries in the Persian section. If not, use currants.
Barberries are more tart, but currants are a fine substitute. Other ingredients you will need: fresh dill, fresh mint, lemons, pistachios, and sumac powder. The ground sumac is optional, but I find it really makes it taste like I’m eating at my favorite Persian restaurant! (I often make saffron rice with leftover sumac powder on top).
Watch out Chipotle, the next rice bowl may be dolma bowls!
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 small yellow onion, peeled and finely diced
- 1 cup basmati rice
- 5 large canned grape leaves, chiffonaded
- 1/4 cup barberries, or dried currants
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
- zest of one lemon
- handful pistachios, shelled
- ground sumac, to taste
- 2-4 dolmas, for serving
- In a medium saucepan with a tight-fitting lid, add the olive oil and turn the heat to medium-high.
- Saute the onion in the olive oil for about 4-5 minutes, until softened.
- Next, stir in the rice, and cook while constantly stirring for 1 minute or so.
- Stir in 2 cups of water, and the grape leaves. Cover and cook on LOW for 20 minutes.
- After 20 minutes, remove the pan from the heat, and add the barberries or currants. Place a kitchen towel on top of the pot, and place the lid back on. Let the rice sit for 5 minutes.
- Meanwhile, chopped the dill and mint, and zest the lemon. Chopped the shelled pistachios.
- Remove the lid from the rice, and stir in the herbs, lemon zest, and chopped pistachios.
- Serve the rice bowl with a sprinkling of sumac and chopped dolmas on top.