TANGY rice-stuffed grape leaves are served throughout Greece and the Middle East. While those of northern and mainland Greece tend to be more complex, with pine nuts and various spices, the simple fennel-and-mint-scented grape leaves of the islands have a clear flavor that brings to mind the aromas of summer. The recipe is my adaptation of a dish that Kalliopi Delios, from Avgonima, Chios, serves as a meze.
Her grape leaves are never served warm, as being prepared a day ahead allows their taste to develop. “I always make them on a Friday afternoon, let them cool in the pot and store in the refrigerator overnight. Then they are ready to be served as a meze during the weekend,” Kalliopi told me. Like most Greek women, she uses fresh or home-frozen grape leaves, and that makes all the difference. If you can get even a few fresh leaves, use them as flavoring, layering them between the dolmades. Fresh leaves need to be blanched in boiling water for about 3 minutes, while frozen ones can be used directly after thawing.
In Rhodes, Lenten stuffed grape leaves are still made with bulgur, as in the old days, before rice became readily available.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Carefully separate the grape leaves and blanch them, in batches, for about 1 minute, in the boiling water. Rinse with cold water and drain.
In a large bowl, combine the onions, fennel, scallions and salt and work the mixture between your hands to wilt the vegetables. Stir in the rice, dill, mint,
Line the bottom of a large pot with the smaller and/or torn grape leaves. Place a large leaf, vein side up, on a work surface, with the stem toward you. Cut off the stem with scissors. Place about
Pour the water, the remaining
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