I love sarma, sometimes called dolma. Grape leaves stuffed with rice and beef, served with yogurt on top. Intellectually I knew that it was a time consuming food to make. But, doing it yourself, afterwards, every mouthful tasted like gold. As it damn well should, it took so long.
It was totally worth every minute.
1 1/2 pounds of ground beef
3 onions diced finely
1 tsp of salt
2 cups of uncooked short grain rice
1/2 cup of water
5 tablespoons of tomato paste
2 1/2 of black pepper
1/4 cup of olive oil
3 teaspoons of mint
75 to 100 medium grape leaves
If you can’t find fresh, brined will do.
Take all of the ingredients above and combine, mixing thoroughly (except the lemon). The seasoning will be most evenly distributed if you knead it with your hands. Forget about not wanting to touch the meat with your hands. If those are your feelings, you are going to have an awfully hard time stuffing the grape leaves.
While the meat is resting from its workout, wash the leaves, then place them in a boiling pot of water for 5 minutes, until tender, but not too soft.
When they go in they will look like this
Gently separate each leaf, (I recommend readying several at once then rolling assembly style) tear off the steam. Holding the leaf vein side up, place a small amount of filling horizontally
Add enough water to cover the sarmas (I used the water I cooked the grape leaves in, because it has all the nutrients from the grape leaves.) Juice the lemon and add it to the water. Cook on the stovetop on a low heat, for about an hour, until the rice is down. At 50 minutes, check on the rice, if it is not done, give it another 10 minutes or so. When serving, it is great with yogurt on top. I love to add mashed garlic to my yogurt, and then spoon it on top. As tasty as this is I would not advise it on a “Date Night,” or everyone will regret it.
In the event you are floundering with your grape leaves, as I was, below is a video of an expert grape leaf stuffer. Behold the mastery.