Quinoa Dolmadakia (Stuffed Grape Leaves)

Quinoa Dolmadakia (Stuffed Grape Leaves)

I've never been able to avoid stuffed grape leaves in Greek or Middle Eastern restaurants, but until now I've never actually tried making them. But looking for something with a Mediterranean flare to go along with my watermelon and feta salad with olives, I found the perfect excuse to try my hand at this dolmadakia recipe that I've been hoarding for years.

Instead of stuffing the grape leaves with a rice filling as is usual, this version uses quinoa to give the dolmadakia a nice, nutty flavor and slightly crunchier texture. And, as I never tire of pointing out, quinoa has a much more complete nutritional profile than rice. Mixed with herbs, shallots and pine nuts, these stuffed grape leaves are sure to fly off the plate, so double or triple the recipe for parties.

Notes: If fresh grape leaves are unavailable, which is probably the case for most of us, use jarred leaves instead of canned so that you can see inside to make sure the veins of the leaves are not too thick. And check the ingredients — grape leaves packed in brine shouldn't need preservatives that are found in many brands.

If you've never opened a jar of grape leaves before, they come rolled up in bundles of about 75 leaves each. If you're only making one, two or three batches of this dolmadakia, unroll only one bundle and leave the rest in the brine for future use. If you find leaves that are torn or have holes in them, simply discard them.

Your first effort at rolling a dolmadaki might turn out a little loose, but you will quickly learn the right amount of pressure to apply to roll the leaves without tearing. A very good visual demonstration of the folding and rolling process is found here.

Quinoa Dolmadakia (Stuffed Grape Leaves)Quinoa Dolmadakia (Stuffed Grape Leaves)
Recipe by
Cuisine: Greek
Published on August 17, 2007

Seasoned quinoa with pine nuts and fresh herbs wrapped in grape leaves for a perfect and delicious Greek appetizer food

Preparation: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 55 to 60 minutes

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  • 1/4 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 2 tablespoons chives, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped (or 1 tablespoon dried)
  • 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
  • pinch of cayenne
  • 2 tablespoons dry vermouth
  • 18 grape leaves
  • 1/2 cup water
  • pinch of celery seed
  • pinch of sea salt
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • Rinse and scrub the quinoa in a fine strainer under running water and soak overnight in a small bowl covered with water. In the morning, drain the quinoa and spread over a fine strainer to dry out the grains as much as possible, preferably many hours before beginning to cook.

  • Heat a small frying pan over medium heat. When hot, add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, wait for a few seconds and then swirl around in the pan. Add the quinoa and sauté for 2 or 3 minutes until the grains start to brown. Be careful of popping and spattering, especially if the quinoa is still damp!

  • Toss in the shallot and pine nuts and continue to stir for 3 or 4 minutes, or until the pine nuts begin to brown as well. Turn down the heat to medium-low and add the chives, parsley, dill, salt and cayenne and lightly sauté for another minute as the herbs wilt. Pour in the vermouth and cover the pan with a lid, simmering until the liquid is absorbed, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and spread the mixture over a plate to let it cool.

  • While the quinoa mixture is cooling, prepare the grape leaves. If you are using fresh leaves, wash and trim the stems off the leaves. If you are using canned or jarred leaves, scald them for a few minutes in hot water in a saucepan, then drain. If necessary, trim the stems.

  • Pat the leaves dry and place them on paper towels with the shiny side down. Place 1 teaspoon of the quinoa mixture in the middle of each leaf. Fold the stem end of each leaf over to cover the filling, and then roll up the sides carefully (to avoid tearing the leaf) until a small compact cylinder is formed.

  • Put the other tablespoon of olive oil in your second smallest saucepan and arrange the stuffed grape leaves over the bottom. It is fine to layer them if your saucepan is very small. Stir in a dash of celery seed and a dash of salt into the half cup of water and pour over the grape leaves, and add the lemon juice.

  • Fit a slightly smaller saucepan lid or plate over the stuffed grape leaves to provide a little weight to keep the leaves from uncurling. Cover the saucepan with a lid and bring the liquid to a simmer over low heat. Cook until the liquid is absorbed, about 45 minutes. Remove, drain and cool before serving.

  • Garnish with lemon wedges and serve with a bowl of plain yogurt for dipping.

Serves 2 to 4 people


Valli said...

What an inventive way to make dolmades. They are one of my favourite foods on my quest for "all things Greek" no matter whether they are stuffed with lamb, rice or quinoa!!

Michele said...

A great recipe I can't wait to try out. I love Stuffed Grape Leaves and those adventurous enough to try them! I wish more would.

I came up with my own version of a Stuffed Grape Leaves, inline with an Arab style. While different from your own, I think mine is a unique take on the dish. I'm new to the Food Blog scene and would love some feedback from a pro like you. Check out my recipe if have time.