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Kukla's Kouzina: A Gourmet Journey ~ Greek Island Style: Meze
From the Arabic, meaning something stuffed, Greek dolma or dolmades/dolmathes (pl.), pronounced dohl-MAH and dohl-MAH-thes, comes in two forms, grape leaf and cabbage. The stuffing ingredients and seasonings vary from region to region in Greece, and in the Middle East they may look like their Greek cousins but it’s the use of local spices, flavorings, and/or fruit/nuts that sets them apart. As in life, it’s what’s on the inside that counts!
Dolmadakia/dolmathakia (ντολμαδάκια), pronounced dohl-mah-THAH-kyah, are small dolmades made with grape leaves (klimatofila) and filled with a ground lamb or beef (or a combination of both)-and-rice stuffing. Dolmadakia made with rice alone are called dolmadakia/dolmathakia gialantzi (ντολμαδάκια γιαλαντζί), pronounced yah-lahnd-ZEE, and, because they’re meatless, can be eaten during Lent or fasting periods (for more on Lenten meals see our blogs on the Greek foods of Lent). Both dolmadakia versions are traditionally served as mezedakia (appetizers) with lemon wedges.
- Grape leaves
- Ground lamb or beef (or a combination of both)
- Lemon for decoration
- Olive Oil
1. Remove the leaves from the jar and carefully unroll them but do not separate. Rinse the leaves under cool water (to remove the brine). Fill a large pot halfway up the sides with water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Carefully add the leaves to the boiling water, return it to a boil, and blanch them until they are bright green—this will only take a couple of minutes, so don’t go anywhere! Drain immediately and rinse under cool water. Drain well and transfer to a large plate. Handle the leaves gently to avoid tearing. Do not throw away any damaged leaves—you’ll need them later.
2. When the leaves are cool enough to handle, line the bottom of a large saucepot with a layer of the reserved damaged leaves. This will keep the dolmadakia from touching the bottom of the pot and burning.
3. Working with one leaf at a time, snip off and discard the tough stem extending from the leaf.
Arrange the leaf, shiny side down (vein side up), on your work surface and place 1 teaspoon of filling on the stem end of the leaf (a). Fold the leaf end closest to you over the filling, covering the filling completely (b). Fold in the sides (c), then roll to the end of the leaf (d). Place the roll, seam side down, in your prepared pot (e).
COOK IT RIGHT!
As you fill the pot, make sure the dolmadakia are placed neatly and snuggly against each other in each layer so they don’t move when cooking. When the pot is full, follow your recipe for the amount of broth and any flavorings to add.
Cover the top of the dolmadakia in the pot with an inverted heatproof shallow bowl. The bowl should be small enough to not touch the sides of the pot but large enough that it covers the dolmadakia. The bowl will keep the dolmadakia from rising to the top of the pot and unraveling while cooking, and will ensure that they cook properly.
Once cooked, dolmadakia can be served warm or at room temperature with lemon slices, though some people enjoy them cold. Your tummy, your choice!
Dolmadakia are typically served with feta, kalamata olives, and assorted dips. For a meze party, pair with ouzo, Ageri (Αγέρι) semi-dry white wine or Rosé Nico Lazaridi.