Stuffed grape leaves are a staple throughout many Mediterranean and Middle Eastern countries. They are delicious and versatile, can be stuffed with meat or with rice (or other grains), can be served hot or room-temperature, with or without a sauce. There is little you can’t do with this tasty treat!
I make stuffed grape leaves every year for my husband’s birthday to celebrate his Greek heritage. (OK, I admit that when I’m lazy or pressed for time I buy them ready made.) My husband is a quarter Greek, and he fondly remembers when spending summers with his Grandparents near Thessaloniki, his grandmother would make dolmas and pack them up as travel food. They are a perfect—and deliciously healthy—snack. They also make a great appetizer, or a light lunch.
My husband is a vegetarian, so for him I always make rice-stuffed grape leaves, which are surprisingly simple. If you can’t find fresh grape leaves to blanch, many specialty food stores offer them pre-blanched and sold in jars. From there it is just a matter of preparing the filling, filling them, lining them in a pot and cooking them. For my part, I have a Greek friend who makes them stuffed with lamb, and they are utterly addictive.
Stuffed grape leaves go by a lot of different names, depending on where you are traveling. You might here them called dolmas in Greece, tolmas in Armenia, sarmas or dolmas in Turkey, and warak enab (or wara’ enab) in Arabic, just to name a few. We offer a number of itineraries that include cooking classes in which you might learn to prepare the regional variation of stuffed grape leaves, such as any of our cooking vacations in Greece, Turkey, or Israel.
By Peg Kern
Sign up to receive our newsletter, which includes travel tips, recipes, promotions, and information on our best cooking vacations.