You Can Do It Dolmas!

We all know dolmas – in America we come across them bottled or canned or in salad bars, grape leaves wrapped around spiced rice often redolent of dill. I’ve never cared for them much but of course, when you can make them yourself you’re much more likely to find the mix you like.

This lovely entree – which can easily be made ahead, or in stages – comes to us by my standby favorite cookbook, Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian. The original recipe is on page 394 and is called “Swiss Chard Leaves Stuffed with Sweet-and-Sour Rice”. I don’t know – the title wasn’t catchy to me. However, in reading the recipe I knew I had to try it. I made a few changes and they were delicious – although I am not nearly as good at rolling items like this as my husband is!

For the filling:
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup short grain rice
2 large whole allspice
1 teaspoon dried mint
10 pink peppercorns
2 tablespoons dried cranberries, diced small
1 tablespoon pine nuts
1 chive, diced small
1 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 tablespoons sugar

About 12 ounces fresh Swiss chard
A few lettuce leaves
1/4 cup olive oil
juice of one lemon
1/4 teaspoon salt

Set the oil over medium-high heat in a saucepan. Add the rice and stir until just beginning to toast. While you are waiting, take the allspice and grind using a mortar and pestle; add the mint and pink peppercorns; crush. When rice is ready, add cranberries, pine nuts, chives, and sugar. Cover and cook for 10 to 20 minutes, or until rice is tender. Set aside to cool.

Wash the chard leaves. Cut the stem off (you can save for later use), and split the larger leaves, cutting out the vein if necessary. Blanch these in hot water until just wilted. Roll about 1 1/2 tablespoons of rice filling in each leaf, ideally about 2 1/2 inches long and 1 1/2 inches in diameter.

Line a cast iron pan with lettuce leaves and arrange the dolmas, packed tight. If necessary, pile a second layer on top of the first. When all dolmas have been rolled, mix the remaining olive oil, lemon juice, and salt; pour over the dolmas carefully. Place a lid or plate on top of dolmas to keep them from moving, then simmer about 45 minutes. Cool to room temperature or in the fridge. Optionally, serve with lemon wedges.

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