A few weeks ago, Mr. S. and I attended a lovely wedding held by Susan and Dan. The happy couple opted for a Mediterranean food theme and it was delicious. The dinner consisted of a greek salad, falafel, hummus, pita bread, chicken souvlaki, tabblouleh and dolma. Everything was wonderful but we both found ourselves repeatedly reaching for the dolma. So when my friend Elif, who’s Turkish, generously offered to show me how to make vegetarian dolma, I jumped at the chance. On a quiet Saturday morning over Turkish coffee, I learned how to prepare several Turkish dishes from scratch: dolma, kisir, sumac-onion salad and a walnut-garlic-red pepper spread. Elif's dolma recipe blows the store-bought variety out of the water, no contest.

Elif’s Dolma Recipe


2 jars of grape leaves*
1 large diced or grated white onion
2 cups uncooked white rice
¼ cup olive oil
½ cup pinenuts
½ cup currants or raisins
1 ½ t ground cinnamon
¼ t ground cloves
2 lemons, juiced and sliced
1 t salt (to taste)

* If you live in Sacramento, try the Mediterranean market on Fulton

Filling Instructions:

- 1. Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan or medium pot. Sweat the onions until they become soft, about 10 minutes.
- 2. Stir in the pinenuts. Allow the onions to carmelize and the pinenuts to brown.
- 3. Add in the currants, cinnamon, ground cloves and salt (don't forget the salt!). Mix well.
- 4. Add in the uncooked rice and 2 cups of water. Simmer until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is half cooked.
- 5. Remove from heat and set aside.

Rolling Instructions:

- 1. Drain the grape leaves in a colander and then place them in a large bowl. Fill the bowl full of hot water and let the leaves sit for 10-15 minutes. Drain and rinse the leaves under cold water.
- 2. Lay one leaf, vein side up/ glossy side down with the stem end pointing towards you. Carefully remove the stem where it hits the leaf.
- 3. Place a spoonful of filling towards the middle by the stem and then using your fingers, elongate the filling into a “cigarette” shape.
- 4. Fold both sides towards the middle, then fold the stem end up and gently roll towards the top. You want to be firm but not roll too tight; otherwise, the leaf will rip when the rice expands. Repeat.
- 5. Arrange the rolls side by side, seam side down in an oven-safe pan (Pyrex or casserole dishes work well for this). It’s okay to stack them.
- 6. Fill the pan ¾ full of water and cover it tightly with aluminum foil.
- 7. Cook at 375 degrees for about 30-40 minutes, until rice is fully cooked
- 8. Allow dolmas to cool.
- 9. Once cooled, sprinkle with fresh lemon juice and garnish with lemon slices.
4 Responses
  1. abigail Says:

    I made dolmas with some family friends once and loved them! I've been looking for a recipe ever since. I'll have to try these!

  2. Elif Says:

    Ally this is great, don't forget that you have to brown the pine nuts and caramalize the onions before you add the other ingredients. That is what gives it a lot of the flavor.

  3. Ally Says:

    Thanks,Elif. I amended the recipe to reflect that and thank you again for a wonderful day of cooking! I had a lot of fun.

  4. Thank you for the recipe, have been looking all over. Something I have had eating out but never made. I don't know about finding the grape leaves, would think someone around here would know where to get.

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