The ubiquitous term in various cultures for stuffed grape leaves is Dolma. This is actually a dish of many names and variations. This version features a savory meat and rice filling! Top it with a creamy yogurt and garlic sauce, and you'll surely fall in love with these wrapped morsels.
110 to 120preserved grape leavesrinsed, stems removed, and squeezed dry
3clovesgarlicfinely chopped or crushed
2tablespoonswateror as desired
In a large mixing bowl add the ground beef and season with salt, paprika, and black pepper. Then add the remaining filling ingredients, and mix with a large spoon or your hands until thoroughly combined.
Lay the grape leaves with the underneath-side (the less smooth side with the visible veins) facing up, and place about 1 tablespoon of filling (or more depending on the size of the leaves) along the stem end of each leaf, fold over the sides, and roll from the stem up to form a sausage-like roll. Repeat with the remaining grape leaves.
Preheat the oven to 400°F, and arrange the rack in the center of the oven.
Arrange the grape leaves in a 9-by-13-inch pan, lining them up 2 layers high. If you have extra unwrapped grape leaves, lay them across the top of the others. This will prevent the grape leaves from getting too dry or dark when baked. Pour water over the top.
Cover the pan with parchment paper, and then a layer of foil. Place in the oven and bake for 45 minutes, then lower the temperature to 375°F and continue to bake for another 30 to 35 minutes until the rice is completely tender (taste one to be sure). Cool the grape leaves in the pan for about 5 to 10 minutes before serving. Serve hot.
While the grape leaves are in the oven, make the yogurt-garlic sauce by combining the yogurt, garlic, salt, and water (the amount of water is really optional, depending on your preferred consistency--thick versus thinner sauce). Drizzle the sauce over each serving of grape leaves.
There are various brands of mild pepper paste that may be available at Middle Eastern markets. You can also find mild pepper paste online.
This recipe uses kosher salt (aka cooking salt, kitchen salt, coarse salt outside of the US). If you are using table salt, definitely scale down the salt as that is a saltier type of salt! The type of salt will make a big difference in how salty your food tastes, so keep that in mind.
If you have different sizes of grape leaves (in your jar or from your own picking/canning) use the smaller grape leaves for these dolma. Save the large ones for making yalanchi!
Please note that while many people cook their dolma on the stove-top in a deep pot, this version bakes it in the oven. There is no right or wrong way, but my family just prefers to do it this way, and it works just fine. It's also a bit easier to arrange the grape leaves in a rectangular pan than in a round pot, but this is just our preference.