Vegetarian Dolmades & Wine Pairing with The Wine Scribble
Kalo Mina! Here is to July!
Here is to “dolmades” season! Our grape leaves are full and ready to be rolled.
My beautiful friend Despina Telemachou is the face behind The Wine Scribble website. Not only is she an amazing soul but she is the wine expert on many Cypriot & Greek wines. I asked Despina if she could do a fun surprise wine pairing video for me to share with the class today. I love surprises and plus how cool to have a wine expert from Cyprus give us our very own wine pairing video to go with the vegetarian dolmades today?! I couldn’t keep this wine pairing video a secret so I wanted to share it with YOU too!
Let’s get to the recipe and then we will jump over to my friend Despina’s wine pairing suggestions and video.
Vegetarian Dolmades Recipe
A delicious vegetarian meze packed with aromatic herbs, rice, and onions.
Servings: 45-50 dolmades
- 50 vine leaves, drained and rinsed
- (I use my fresh leaves from the garden but if you don’t have that readily available use 1 jar of grape leaves from your local store.
- 1 cup of rice
- 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 cup white onion, diced
- 1 cup leeks, diced
- 1 3/4 cup water
- 1/2 cup lemon juice
- 4 tablespoons fresh dill
- 1 tablespoon dried basil
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1 pinch cumin
- 1 pinch paprika
- 1 tablespoon thyme honey
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Optional pistachios
- Optional Currants
- If using store-bought grape leaves, place leaves in a colander and rinse with cold water. Remove stems, and set them aside. If using fresh leaves, remove stems. Rinse under cool water and blanch in boiling water. Once boiled, remove leaves from the water and strain in a colander.
- Prepare rice filling. In a large saucepan, add 1/3 cup of olive oil over medium heat. Place the onions and leeks in the pan. Saute until onions become translucent.
- Add the rice to the pan, and pour in the water, lemon, and 1/2 cup of olive oil.
- Cook for 10 minutes, until the liquid, has absorbed. Place rice in a medium bowl to cool.
- Add the spices, and honey to the rice mixture.
- Here comes the tricky part! (Rolling the grape leaves) Place one leaf- shiny side down, and add 1 teaspoon of the rice filling at the bottom of the leaf. (I learned the hard way to not overfill the dolmades, as they will break open.)
- Fold the lower part of the leaf towards the center, and over the filling. Drizzle olive oil and lemon juice on the bottom of a pot.
- Bring both sides of the leaf to the center, and roll. Make sure you roll tight so when the dolmades cook, they don’t break open. Place the leaves in a pot, making sure to place leaves folded side down. When you placed all rolled leaves in the pot, drizzle again with olive oil and lemon juice. (You can use a crockpot to cook the grape leaves in.)
- Place a plate on top of the dolmades to hold them down while cooking. Drizzle ⅓ cup of water over the dolmades. (You can add more water if it absorbs too quickly)
- Simmer between 40 to 45 minutes. Make sure the grape leaves are tender before you remove them from the pot. Let the dolmades cool down.
- When ready to serve, add fresh lemon juice and dill over the top. ( Serve with tzatziki dip.)
Preserving The Leaves
- 100 fresh grape leaves
- 2 teaspoons of kosher salt
- 1 quart of water
- 1 cup of lemon juice (white wine vinegar works too)
- 2 large mason jars
- Handful of fresh rosemary and 5-6 cloves of fresh garlic (infused leaves)
- Wash the leaves under cold water to remove any film or dirt. Then fill a large pot with water.
- Add the salt and lemon juice to the pot and stir to combine.
- Once the water is simmering add the leaves 1 by 1. You can do 6 at a time. Cook each side for about 30 seconds until the leaves turn a darker green color on each side.
- Make sure to not overcook the leaves. Flip each side to ensure they are both cooked evenly.
- Stack the leaves on a baking sheet lined with paper towels. Drain the excess liquid out.
- Prepare an ice bath. Fill in a large bowl with ice and water and gently place the leaves inside to stop them from cooking. Remove from water and place on a baking sheet lined with paper towels.
- Trim the stems of the leaves. Discard stems. Don’t forget this step!
- Gently stack the leaves on top of another so it will make the process of rolling easy.
- With the shiny side down roll the leaves in a group of 5. You want to tightly roll them in a cigar shape. Then place it inside a clean mason jar.
- Pour the remaining brine juice over the leaves inside the mason jar. Then top the leaves off with a few lemon slices and drizzle with olive oil. For extra flavor, you can add herbs like dill, mint, basil, or rosemary. I used fresh rosemary and garlic cloves in my most recent batch.
- Process the jar in a boiling water bath for about 15 minutes. You can keep these up to a year in a sealed mason jar.
Watch the video here!
Vegetarian Dolmades Wine Pairing
Hi! My name is Despina and I love wine. Check out my YouTube channel WineScribble, for loads of videos on the wines of Greece and Cyprus. So, Krystina has created a very special Greek dish. But, what wine pairs best with vegetarian dolmades?
When pairing wine, we often focus far too much on the main protein of a dish. Is it fish or is it red meat? Is it chicken or is it duck? That’s a great starting point because often the protein element tends to dominate a dish. However, a better approach is to think not of the type of meat but of the dominant flavors that permeate a dish. A vegetarian dish illustrates this principle perfectly, as there is no meat here to distract us.
Don’t be deceived by how simple it is to make these dolmades. This dish has a multilayered, complex flavor profile. There are many delicate aromatics at play. So, let’s consider the aromatic layers of Krystina’s Vegetarian Dolmades.
The onion creates a grounding foundation for the dish that is complemented by the smokey warmth of the cumin and paprika spices. The earthy sweetness of the leeks is a bridge to the fresh sweetness of the herbs! Fresh dill, especially, has a unique taste, a grassiness combined with an almost balmy spiciness, reminiscent of aniseed. The addition of dried basil and oregano brings yet more pungent sweetness to this dish. And, in fact, all these delightful aromatics are amplified by the ingenious addition of a little thyme-scented honey! And is there a dominant flavor in all this? Yes! It is the element that underlines all the other components by providing a counterbalance. I am referring, of course, to the uplifting, refreshing tartness of the lemon juice!
My first two recommendations are Greek aromatic white wines. Greek white wines combine a delicate aromatic character with bright acidity. This combination allows the nuanced aromatics of the dish to shine through without being intimidated by its bright, lemony character.
My first choice would be Malagousia. This Greek white grape variety produces outstanding dry wines of medium alcohol content that shimmer in the glass, their color a pale yellow flecked with green. Malagousia has an outrageously expressive floral nose. It has aromas of white-fleshed fruit, with peaches and pears exquisitely noticeable. Herbs such as mint and plenty of citruses such as lemon and orange will particularly match the herb and lemon aromas of Krystina’s dolmades. I have never tasted a Malagousia I didn’t like, but my favorite is the Malagousia by Ktima Gerovasiliou. It has a particularly well-rounded flavor because the wine is left on its lees to enhance its structure and body. If you come across it anywhere, grab it!
However, it might be easier to find another, far better known aromatic white of Greece: Moschofilero. Moschofilero is in fact not a white but a “blanc de Gris” as the grapes have a light pinkish color that imparts the faintest coral hue to the wine. Moschofilero is capable of producing very elegant wines when treated with respect in the vineyard. A great Moschofilero will impart opulent honeyed aromas, exotic spices, jasmine, rose, and loads of citrus, all of which will harmonize with the aromatic layers in Krystina’s dolmades. Don’t fear this wine’s exuberance! Although intensely aromatic, it never slips into perfumed flabbiness like Gewurztraminer. That’s because Moschofilero has a commanding acidity that keeps it in sharp focus. My favorite example is a Moschofilero by Troupis Winery called Hoof & Lur. This particular Moschofilero captures the variety’s character in its purest form as it is both wild fermented and unfiltered.
Finally, if finding a Greek white wine proves challenging, don’t let this ruin your enjoyment of this delightful Greek dish. Vegetarian dolmades pair most wonderfully with the popular, and easy-to-find, Sauvignon Blanc. My only caveat would be to look for a cool-climate Sauvignon Blanc, from regions such as the Loire Valley in France, Marborough in New Zealand or Alto-Adige in Italy. A cool-climate Sauvignon Blanc will give more aromas of citrus, such as lemon and lime, as well as herbal notes such as freshly cut grass. And these fresh, uplifting aromas will match Krystina’s dish perfectly. Matua Sauvignon Blanc is a popular choice from New Zealand!
Whichever wine you choose, don’t stress too much over it. Wine, like food, is never “right” or “wrong”. Make Krystina’s dolmades many times and try different wine pairings till you find the one that you enjoy the most. The one that pleases you best is the best pairing! Yamas!