Sunday, July 14, 2013

Meat, Bulgur, and Rice Dolmades

Dolmades are a traditional appetizer, often served in Greek cuisine, featuring a grape leaf wrapped around a savory filling. The filling generally consists of rice, ground beef, spices, and herbs. For the ground meat in this vegan version, try any of the meatless crumbles on the market, whether Yves Veggie, Lightlife, Tofurky, or any other you prefer. If you'd rather a filling without the vegan beef, check out my post for Brown Rice-Stuffed Grape Leaves in Tomato Sauce.

  • 1 cup coarsely chopped fennel
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped green onions
  • 8 ounces meatless crumbles
  • 2 tablespoons uncooked medium-grain rice (such as Arborio)
  • 2 tablespoons uncooked bulgur
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 large tomato
  • 1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper*
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 30 bottled grape leaves
  • Cooking spray
  • 2 cups vegan chicken broth (such as Imagine)
  • 1/4 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
  • Lemon wedges (optional for garnish)
1. In a food processor, combine the fennel, onion, and green onions, and process until minced.

2. Combine the fennel mixture in a large bowl with the meatless crumbles, rice, bulgur, and olive oil.

3. Core the tomato and cut in half crosswise. Grate over the fennel mixture with the largest holes of a box grater, and discard the skin.

Note: This is a traditional method for preparing tomatoes in Greek cuisine, that eliminates the need to give them a water bath and then peel. The skin will fall away, leaving the pulp behind. Seeds are just fine.

4. Sprinkle the fennel mixture with the Aleppo pepper and the salt, and stir to combine.

5. Meanwhile, separate out 30 leaves from a bottle of grape leaves, choosing the largest ones for this recipe and reserving the remaining leaves for another use.  Drain and pat dry with paper towels.  Remove the stems with the tip of a paring knife, and discard.

6. Spoon 1 rounded tablespoon fennel mixture onto the center of each grape leaf.  Fold the sids of the leaf over the filling.  Beginning on the side closest to you, roll up tightly, jelly-roll fashion.  Repeat with the remaining leaves and filling.

7. Place the grape leaves, seam sides down, in a Dutch oven coated with cooking spray.  Add the broth and the lemon juice, and bring to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 30 minutes.

8. Carefully remove the grape leaves from the pan (I found that a fork worked best, removing them one at a time).  Whisk together the cornstarch and water, and stir the cornstarch mixture into the broth.  Return to a boil and cook for 1 minute.  Stir in the dill.

Serve 5 dolmades on each of 6 plates, along with 1/4 cup lemon broth, and a lemon wedge for garnish and a spritz before serving if desired.

*Aleppo pepper is a dried crushed red pepper from the Middle East, which is milder than most Mexican chile peppers.  I found a jar at Fairway market, but if you can't find this item, substitute about a dash of crushed red pepper.

Nutrition Info:
6 servings (5 dolmades, 1/4 cup lemon broth), Calories 132

Tasting Notes:
Tasty little packets. The rice leaves were perfectly tender, and the fennel, bulgur, and "beef" flavors of the filling really jumped out. The Aleppo pepper was disappointingly hard to discern, so consider increasing if you've gone to all the trouble of finding it. I would also add a touch more salt, or perhaps some Veg Cuisine feta crumbled up. The sauce is beautifully abundant with dill, and had a nice rich consistency from the cornstarch. 


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