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!