Dolma is a Mediterranean dish made with rice-stuffed grape leaves. Although the term dolma is a Turkish word, meaning something that is stuffed, most countries in the Mediterranean region have their own version of this dish. Occasionally dolma can be found premade in specialty stores but is more often found in Mediterranean restaurants or made at home.
In addition to grape leaves, rice, onions, and lemons are normally included in dolma. Tomato paste, pine nuts, and mint are added to many versions as well. Cinnamon, allspice, and oregano, as well as salt and pepper, may be used to season the dish. Some versions included fresh dill, dried currants, or parsley. Minced or ground meat, usually lamb or beef, are included in many dolma recipes.
To prepare dolma, the onions are sauteed in oil, then the rice is added and the mixture is covered in hot water. The rice is allowed to simmer for a short time, partially cooking it. Afterward, it is removed from the heat and the other ingredients, excluding the grape leaves, are mixed with the rice.
Grape leaves may be purchased fresh or in jars. To prepare the grape leaves, the leaves are washed and the stems removed. If jarred, the leaves are soaked in water and then separated prior to use.
Once the rice mixture is cool, small portions are placed in the center of each grape leaf. The leaves are then rolled up like cigars. The shiny side of the leaves always faces outward.
The cooking pan may or may not be lined with any remaining grape leaves or with the removed grape stems. The stems of the dill and parsley, if used, can also line the pan. Afterward, the dolma are placed snugly into the pan or steamer pot. Some versions may layer the leaf rolls, others use a single layer. Once placed, water or oil is poured over the dolma, and the dish is simmered until the rice is cooked completely.
Often a heat-proof plate or something similar is placed over the dolma in the pan to prevent them from floating or shifting during cooking. Once cooked, the stuffed leaves are cooled inside the pot to help prevent them breaking. Dolma are very fragile, so they should always be transferred from cooking pot to plate or serving platter with care. They can be eaten warm but are more frequently chilled and eaten cold.