So I had a job.
It wasn’t supposed to involve food — there was a lot more paperwork than stirring or standing over a stove. But nonetheless, it was a subject we always found ourselves gravitating towards.
I also had a manager at this job, to whom I always paid a quick visit before heading to the nearest market to grab something for lunch.
And upon said visit, I would ask, “is there anything you want me to get for you while I’m in the outside world?” To which I expected answers like: sandwich, coffee, maybe chips.
But she always replied with “dolmas.”
Now a dolma is not a cousin to the llama or a place for meditation or prayer.
A dolma is most commonly a soft grape leaf stuffed with rice, vegetables, dried fruit, and sometimes meat and then, THEN!, wrapped up real tight in into a vegetable pouch. Perfect for popping into your mouth. Kind of like a Mediterranean or Middle Eastern sushi roll.
When it has meat, the dolma is served warm. When it is purely for herbivores, the dolma is served cold. Either way, it’s great with yogurt. And usually, because of the salt-soaked grape leaves — it’s most common form of packaging — it is also loaded with sodium.
So just as quickly as I learned what a dolma was, I learned that it was also no good for me or my kidneys.
Until I realized that grape leaves weren’t the only greens that would work as edible wrapping paper.
Turns out many people stray from the grape leaves and use other pliable veggies, like squash blossoms, swiss chard, cabbage, and even thinly sliced or hollowed eggplant to act as the dolma vehicle. And since my garden is exploding with gigantic proportions of collards, I thought I could give them a try.
So I took to my collards with newfound excitement and determination, and with a quick saute and the removal of their hard stem, I had a limp leaf that was just perfect for filling, rolling, and eating.
I kept this initial trial version simple and filled it only with some steamed (and sticky) white rice. But for my next attempt, I might take my inspiration from this Epicurious.com recipe — which I already salt-free’d below for your experimenting pleasure.
And whether you’ve been craving to eat dolmas again or are just discovering them for the first time, have a go at rolling your own low-sodium delicacies in whatever crazy, edible envelope you can think of.
- 1 medium onion, diced
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 2 cups water
- White or black pepper, to taste
- 1½ cups uncooked rice
- ½ cup fresh parsley, chopped
- 2 teaspoons dried dil
- 1 teaspoon fresh mint, chopped
- ¼ cup ricotta cheese, crumbled
- ½ cup salt-freepine nuts
- ½ cup raisins
- 12 gigantic collard leaves, stem removed and leaves split into two “dolma” wraps each
- ½ cup lemon juice
In a saucepan, sauté the onion in olive oil until light brown. Add the rice and brown lightly. Add the water and pepper.Bring the water to a boil and simmer for 5 to 7 minutes, or until water is absorbed but rice is only partially cooked. Make certain rice does not stick or burn.Add all the ingredients except the lemon juice and collard leaves and mix well.
Quickly steam or sauté those collard leaves (really, only 1 minute or so until they are just soft enough to mold). Then place 1 tablespoon of filling in the center of each leaf. Fold the sides in and roll the leaf up.
Place stuffed leaves in a pot in even and tight rows covering the bottom of the pan. When the bottom layer is complete, start another layer. Continue rolling dolmas until all of the filling is used.
Add ½ of the lemon juice and enough water to cover half of the rolled leaves.Place a plate on the top layer to hold the stuffed leaves down and to prevent them from unrolling while cooking. Simmer over low heat until most of the liquid is absorbed, about 45 minutes.
Remove the plate and dolmas from the pan, drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice, and serve. May be served warm or at room temperature. Serve with low-sodium Greek yogurt mixed with leftover mint or dill if desired.