Dolmades are stuffed grape leaves, found in many different countries around the eastern Mediterranean-which is why the name has many different variations (including dolmas and dolmathes).
36 grape leaves from a jar
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
1 bunch of scallions, finely chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley
1 cup long-grain rice
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup yellow raisins, soaked for 30 minutes in 1/4 cup white wine
salt and pepper to taste
juice of 2 lemons
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 cup water
1. Scald the grape leaves with hot water, cut off the stems, pat the leaves dry, and place them on paper towels with their shiny surfaces down.
2. Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil to a heavy skillet over moderate heat. Add the scallions and parsley, and cook for 10 minutes.
3. Add the rice, dill, pine nuts, and raisins. Stir well. Cook for 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
4. Stuff the grape leaves: Place about a teaspoon of the rice mixture near the bottom edge of each leaf (the shiny side is still down). Fold about 1/4 inch of each side of the leaf over the filling, then roll the leaf up toward the tip at the top. Each one should be a small, compact, tightly wrapped cylinder.
5. Select a heavy pot that will hold 18 of the leaves in 1 layer. Add 18 stuffed leaves, then sprinkle with the juice of 1 lemon and 2 tablespoons olive oil. Make a second layer of 18 stuffed leaves on top of the first. Once again, sprinkle with the juice of 1 lemon and 2 tablespoons olive oil. Pour the chicken stock, the water, and the remaining 4 tablespoons of olive oil over all (the liquid should cover the stuffed leaves).
6. Weight leaves with a plate, so they don't move around during cooking. Simmer the leaves, covered, over very low heat for 50 minutes.
7. When the leaves are cool enough to handle, remove them from the pot. Drain them, cool them to room temperature, and serve.
The most famous dolmades are from Greece and Turkey. Turkish cooks believe that if you stuff the leaves with meat, you should make them with butter and serve them warm. If the leaves are stuffed with rice, however (the variation we favor), they should be made with olive oil and served at room temperature. This delicious recipe calls for exactly that. The brine - soaked grape leaves from jars are acceptable to use in this dish-they're probably your only option - but Mediterranean chefs often make dolmades from fresh vine leaves; use 'em if you can find 'em. Dolmades are a dynamic part of a Mediterranean appetizer assortment (along with feta cheese, olives, and tomatoes). Makes 36 dolmades.