Ask someone from Greece for the origin of dolmas (stuffed grape leaves), and they will tell you that they were served atop Mount Olympus along with ambrosia and nectar. And although you see references to Greek, Lebanese, Turkish, and other areas of the world, nothing consistently distinguishes one from the other. It is clear, however, that different styles have developed. Whether they belong to a specific country or not is debatable.
“Dolma” is the Arabic word for something stuffed, be it grape leaves, vegetables, or fruits that are filled with seasoned meat or rice, and often both. In their many variations, dolmades reflect the cuisines of the former Ottoman Empire (1299-1922), which encompassed Turkey, Greece, parts of the Middle East, and surrounding lands.
The stuffed vine leaves of Greece are mainly filled with minced lamb, a bit of rice, and touches of other ingredients such as crushed mint, fennel or parsley leaves, dill, garlic, pine nuts or currants, and are served either hot with a chicken broth and lemon-based sauce or cold with a touch of olive oil. Others call on cinnamon or allspice. Raisins, pine nuts, onions, and tomatoes may be included. The meat is usually ground beef or lamb, and sometimes pork. In Turkey, they are dolma, in Iran dolmeh, and their basis is more rice than meat.
Meat dolmades generally are served warm, typically accompanied by a sauce.
Meatless ones usually are served cold.
When hot – and sauced – dolmades are occasionally served as one course of a more substantial meal. Often, however, the stuffed leaves – cold or at room temperature and daubed with a bit of olive oil – are served as a part of the mezes, or hors-d’oeuvres.
We offer two types of dolmas at Paymon’s. In one version our tender grape leaves are filled with seasoned, lean ground chuck, fresh tomato, rice, and flavorful seasonings, and then baked in a tangy tomato sauce and served hot on a thin layer of roasted red pepper coulis. If you prefer a meatless selection, our vegetarian version of dolmas consists of young, tender grape leaves, stuffed with rice and flavorful herbs, served with our delicious tzatziki sauce, served Cold! Try one or both if you want to feel like that mythical God on Olympus! 😉