August 27th, 2010
Making decent dolma in 1 hour, more or less…
(My apologies to Binnur Degirmencioglu for even attempting to do this dish).
2 large eggplants (you may substitute for ground lamb, but don’t. Please.)
long grain rice (I’ll tell you how much in a second)
1 small head of cabbage
1 tblsp. tomato paste
1 head of garlic, or less
1/2 onion chopped finely
1 tblsp. mint or parsley (fresh or dry)
salt and pepper
1 computer (optional)
- Tune in to Radiodarvish.com and get in the mood. Look at your raw materials. Aren’t they beautiful? I love vegetables!
- Turn your oven to maximum (if gas), or around 550˚ (if electric) and throw those two bad boys in there (the eggplants). Yes, I know. It’s a lot, but not if you need to simulate a charcoal oven. Make sure to puncture the eggplants in a few places or they will explode inside your oven (not fun).
- While your eggplants bake, boil some water on a big ol’ rice pot. Lots of water. With the boiling water you will do a couple of things: peel the tomato and detach the cabbage leaves from the head. This also makes them pliable for later.
- I shouldn’t have to explain how to peel a freaking tomato with boiling water. If you don’t know, google it!
- Now we are going to peel off all those cabbage leaves that will hold our delicious stuffing. The traditional way is to peel each leaf one by one, and them dip them into water until they are pliable. I like to combine both processes and save some time. First I grab the cabbage and use a paring knife to cut (detach) all the leaves from the cabbage stem (about 1 ½ in. deep). Then I put the whole cabbage head into the boiling water and voila! The leaves start to peel off by themselves one-by-one as they soften. Clever, huh? Keep peeling leaves until they are too small to make a dolma. (Save all the leaves that break because you will need them later).
- Peel and slice the garlic. No need to slice it thinly. You’ll see why.
- Now you need to slice off the vein of each leaf so that they can bend easily. Put the al the leaves aside and start on the stuffing.
- By now your eggplant should be done. They way to know when they are fully baked is to see if they are inflated like a balloon and the skin became of a uniform tan-like color.
- Open each eggplant and scoop all the pulp out of it. Scrape it good. Let it drain in a colander while you wash the rice. How much rice? You will look at how much eggplant pulp you have and add about 1/3 that much rice in volume.
- Chop the tomato very small and mix it with the rice, eggplant, onion, parsley (or mint), cinnamon and season with salt and pepper to taste. If you grew up on steak and potatoes, don’t do it to taste. Use about a bit over a teaspoon. Trust me. Now your stuffing is ready! If it turns out a bit watery don’t worry, the rice will absorb that.
On to the actual dolma!
- Empty out the pot that you used to boil the water and line it with the cabbage leaves that were broken AND THAT YOU DIDN’T DISCARD, RIGHT? One layer is enough.
- Now organize yourself. Next to the pot you will place the leaves, the stuffing, and a chopping board with the sliced garlic on it.
- Grab one cabbage leaf and place a heaping tablespoon of stuffing inside. Place the filling on the side of the leaf that has the vein on it. Fold the two sides in, use them as flaps, and roll up the whole dolma on the chopping block. Kind of like a big joint. But not too tight! Remember the rice will expand a lot! Use the thin end of the leaf for sealing it. Do not lick it! It is not a joint; that was just for reference!
- Throw a handful of garlic slices on the bottom of the cabbage-lined pot, and start placing your dolma in there. As you place them put more garlic slices in between the “dolmae.” You know, for extra flavor. Damn it, I’m drooling already (also, the smell is driving me crazy as I write this).
- After you are done filling the pot, you will put some water in a bowl (less than what it would have taken to cook the rice by itself) and dilute the tomato paste in it. Add a pinch of salt and olive oil too.
- Now put the pot on the stove at high heat, add enough water to cover the first layer of dolma and cover. Once it boils to a roll, reduce the heat to medium-low and cover again.
- Go work on your code.
- Make some tea and check on the water level. If it is low, you can probably hear oil sizzling rather than a “rolling-water” sound. Add some water, but not as much as the first time. The idea is to keep it damp.
- You will repeat this process for the next 30~40 minutes, code-tea-water, until the dolma are chubby, and they sort off push back at your finger when you poke them (that means the rice is fluffy). Towards the end you will also squeeze half a lemon in there. If at the end there is still excess water don’t panic. Just leave the pot lid ajar until they dry up a bit.
- You are now done! Go and finish up your code while they cool off a bit.
Squeeze the remaining lemon in and serve cold or hot, up to you. Make a nice table with olives and some yogurt dish and enjoy!