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Stuffed Grape Leaves (Sarma / Dolma); . . . Delicious, Exotic, Healthy Middle Eastern Cuisine!!

Updated on August 27, 2015
Glenn Co profile image

I am from greater Burlington, Vt., where my wife and I spend as much time as possible outdoors.

1) - What You'll Need To Make Sarma / Dolma (Stuffed Grape Leaves)

We make them using many different ingredients, depending on our mood. (We also eliminate the protein completely from time to time.)

These are the principal ingredients that you'll need to make delicious middle eastern Stuffed Grape Leaves.

A jar of grape leaves.(We use any of several brands of leaves, sold by the jar, or fresh leaves when available.)

Hamburger (we have switched frequently to turkey burger, and the flavor has not suffered in the least.)

Jasmine rice

tomato paste


Dried mint leaves

Pine nuts (toasted)*

Kalamata Olives *

A deep, covered saute pan

*Ice (for making an ice bath for halting the cooking of the grape leaves)

* Indicates an optional ingredient.

Our preferred grape leaves, when fresh ones aren't available.
Our preferred grape leaves, when fresh ones aren't available.

2) - Pick Through Your Grape Leaves Before Proceeding.

Leaves that are not usable should be put aside for a few moments.

Grape leaves that are too large or too small, or that are torn or incomplete, will not make great stuffing leaves, but they are very useful for lining the bottom of the pan, to keep the stuffed leaves from sticking.

3) - Gently Boil The Usable Leaves For 3 - 4 Min.

Drop your leaves into a pot of gently boiling, unsalted water. (This will remove the chewiness that is inherent to the grapeleaves.) (This is a process that we usually don't do, as my wife prefers the more toothsome texture of the unboiled leaves.)

After gently boiling them for 3 - 4 min., or until tender, (7 - 10 min., for fresh leaves,) drop them quickly into an ice bath (cold water with ice in it.) This will stop the cooking process before the leaves become over cooked and unusable.

Now, you are ready to make your stuffing, and then start rolling your leaves.

Typical ingredients to make stuffed grape leaves.
Typical ingredients to make stuffed grape leaves.

4) - The Basic Stuffed Grape Leave Recipe

This is a basic, but delicious stuffed grape leaf recipe. As indicated by the asterisks, the kalamata olives are optional.

1 lb. – Hamburger (Turkey or beef, 92% Lean)

1 cup – Jasmine Rice

1 cup – Water

2 tbls. – Olive Oil

2 tsp. – Dried Mint Leaves

1 tsp. – Garlic Powder

4 tbls. – Tomato Paste

1 tsp. – Salt

½ cup – Kalamata Olives (pitted & rough chopped)*

Grape Leaves

Combine the water with olive oil, tomato paste, garlic powder and mint.

Mix well. Add the rice and stir.

Add the liquid to the hamburger and olives* in a mixing bowl. Mix well. (The mixture will be very loose at this point.) (Refrigerate for 3-4 hrs., until the mixture tightens up to a more workable consistency.)

Use the torn or very small grape leaves to line the bottom of a Dutch oven.

Snip the stems off the untorn grape leaves that you will use.

Position the leaves on your work surface so that the pale under leaf is facing upward.

Place a spoonful (depending on the size of the leaf) of the burger mixture on the grape leaf near the bottom and shape somewhat with your fingers into a log.

Fold the left and right wings over the mixture, then fold the bottom over.

Roll towards the top, holding the stuffed leaf together, until the mixture is entirely enclosed.

5) - Layer Your Stuffed Leaves In A Covered Saute Pan / Dutch For Cooking.

After the leaves are stuffed, line the bottom of the pan that will be used for cooking with the unusable or leftover leaves. (This will eliminate any risk of your stuffed leaves sticking to the pan.)

Layer the stuffed leaves in the pan, with the larger ones on the bottom. (Arrange them somewhat tightly, to prevent them from coming apart during the cooking process, and with the seam of each rolled leaf down.)

Add water or brine from the grape leaf jar, or a combination of both to the pan, 2/3 to the top of the stuffed leaves. Bring to a boil uncovered, and then reduce the heat to a slow simmer, cover the pan and cook for 35 min. (We find using the brine from the leaves to be a bit too salty, so we simply use lightly salted tap water to 2/3 to the top of the pan.)

Serve them warm or cold, as a meal, a delicious snack, or as an accompaniement to an entree' such as a delicious Moroccan Tagine. (We usually eat them drizzeled with Sambal, a spicy red sauce.)

6) - Sauces For Dipping And Drizzling The Stuffed Grape Leaves

Many people make a dipping sauce using plain yogurt, with whatever seasonings they prefer, added to it.

My wife started using, and has now hooked me on using Saracha sauce to dip into. (The combination of that magnificent flavor, combined with the heat, is, we feel, a perfect compliment to the grape leaves.)

Be creative with the sauce(s) that you use to compliment the stuffed grape leaves. The beauty of them is that their flavors work so well with so many other flavors.

These are probably our favorite meal when we're in a hurry, and want something delicious, exotic and chilled. (We try to always have a container full in the frig.) Dip or drizzle them in some Saracha or yogurt sauce, and you'll have a healthy meal fit for royalty!! (They also make wonderful appetizers for many different types of entrees)


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