My fav dolma recipe (woohoo)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 onion, minced
1 lb lean ground beef or lamb
1/2 short grain rice (I dont follow this part-- I use more rice and I use basmati lol)
2 tbsp chopped fresh mint OR 2 tsp dried
2 tbsp chopped fresh dill or 2 tsp dried
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
3/4 cup water (more if using more rice)
juice of 1 lemon
preserved grape leaves
2 lemons, thinly sliced
Lemon juice to taste
Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Add onion. Sauté until onion is tender. Add meat. Cook until meat is crumbly and brown. Add rice, mint, dill, salt, and pepper. Stir over medium heat until rice is glazed. Add the water. Bring to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, over medium heat 5 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Stir in juice of lemon. Cool. Cut stems (I pinch mine off) off of grape leaves. Place grape leaves in a bowl and pour boiling water over them ***(this is good if they're very tough-- I personally separate each leaf and run them under hot water, and then put em in a bowl and pour the boiling water over them. If they're really bad, I even dip them in boiling water for a few minutes to blanch them first.)*** Drain and rinse. Cool. Line the bottom of a large pot with some broken or messed up grape leaves. ***(I peel and slice a potato or two and line the bottom that way instead of using grape leaves. Other people slice onions and line the bottom with them)*** Place each leaf shiny-side down on a flat surface. Spoon about 1 tbsp mixture (use your own judgement-- some ppl like fat huge dolma and some like them skinny) roll up by folding up the bottom, then the two sides, then up the rest of the way. Stack rolls seam side down in an even layer over the grape leaves (or potato) in the saucepan. Arrange 2-3 lemon slices ***(u can also do tomato or onion slices as well)*** over rolls. Repeat layering rolls and slices until all the leaves or stuffing is gone (if u have extra stuffing, why not add some tomato sauce to this and stuff some bell peppers, put them in some pyrex with some oil and water and bake at 350 for an hour or so, covered with foil). Invert a heat proof plate on top of stuffed leaves while cooking. Press plate down gently. Pour in water to within 1 inch of saucepan rim (use own judgement in this). Cover and simmer over low heat for 40 minutes to an hour or until rice is tender. Leaves should be tender and not chewy or fibrous I guess. Cool slightly, then arrange on a platter.
***Note***-- I like to add some lemon juice and salt to the water I pour in the pot with the dolmas. On occasion I dissolve a tsp or so of tomato paste in the water first then pour it over the dolmas, but not often.