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Food

Vegan Dolmadakia – Stuffed Grape Leaves with Mushrooms

The idea to use grape leaves as a wrapping for food probably goes back to prehistory, and at least to the cultivation of grapes which began 6,000 to 8,000 years ago. Stuffed vegetables are common in the cuisine of the Mediterranean, the Balkans, the Middle East, the Caucuses, and across to Central Asia. The filling may include rice, ground meat, or grains, onion, herbs like dill, mint, and parsley, and spices. The meatless versions are cooked with olive oil and can include only rice or a combination of rice, herbs, onions, raisins or currants, and nuts. Use the combination of herbs you prefer to personalize the dish.

Grape leaves in the jar are readily available in most supermarkets these days, though if you happen to grow your own vines, feel free to pick fresh leaves and use them for stuffing. When using fresh leaves from the vine, small to medium-sized leaves work best for stuffing since the larger leaves can be tough to chew no matter how long you boil them.

Dolmadakia – Stuffed Grape Leaves with Mushrooms

2 packages (8 oz. each) mushrooms of your choice, sliced

4 tablespoons Greek extra virgin olive oil

2 cups chopped onions

1 can (28 ounces) tomatoes, chopped

Greek sea salt and pepper to taste

2 cups water

1 cup rice

1 teaspoon dried mint or 3 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped

3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill

3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

1 jar of grape leaves (1 pound)

Water

Fresh lemon juice

To make the filling, sauté the mushrooms in a large frying pan with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Don’t crowd the pan so the mushrooms can brown evenly. When the mushrooms have cooked down, add salt and pepper to taste and remove from heat. Set aside to cool, then chop, if preferred, and add to the stuffing later.

Add the olive oil and the onions to a large saucepan or Dutch oven. Sauté until the onions are translucent. Add the chopped tomatoes, the water, a half teaspoon of salt and a half teaspoon of freshly ground pepper. Bring up to a boil and add the rice. Stir in the herbs and the mushrooms and remove from heat. Allow to cool slightly.

Meanwhile, set a pot of water to boil and remove the grape leaves from the jar and rinse under cool water. If using fresh leaves, remove any stems and rinse thoroughly under cool water. Then, cook the whole grape leaves, whether from the jar or fresh, in the boiling water for 5 minutes; drain in a colander.

Cover the bottom of a large pot or Dutch oven with any torn grape leaves. Place one grape leaf on your work surface, place a spoonful of the rice mixture in the center of the leaf’s dull side, tuck in the sides and roll to form your dolmadaki. Continue with remaining grape leaves and filling. Place the stuffed grape leaves in pot or Dutch oven, layering them as needed. Once finished rolling and placing the stuffed grape leaves in the pot, pour just enough water to cover them in the pot and the juice of one lemon or to taste. Place a plate to keep the stuffed grape leaves submerged, and place a cover slightly ajar on top of the pot and cook over low heat for about an hour or until the filling is cooked through. There should be some cooking liquid left after a half hour, but check in case it evaporates too quickly before the stuffed grape leaves are done in which case more water can be added and continue simmering until done. Serve with additional fresh lemon juice, if preferred.

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