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Sep 6, 2001 01:24 PM

dolma/dolmades/stuffed grape leaves

  • z

Where can I get some good ones?

This is my son's (8 yr old) favorite at the moment--but he can't be convinced that he can get any better than the canned greek variety found on devon.

I, of course, told him no, there is much better out there.

We went to the little armenian church festival in evanston - sadly the dolma were no better than the can (I had to agree-they might have been the ones from the can)

went to taste of greektown- no one selling dolma.

Have found passable but not great ones at "grape leaves" in Oak Park but nothing approaching the ones that sing in memory-filched out of my iraqi childhood friend's refrigerator when his mother would cook for gatherings. They did not taste of the brine soaking material for grape leaves-rather of lemon, they were filled with rice, lamb, and sometimes a little dill and often she had to make another batch because my friend and I ate so many, so quickly.

where are these grape leaves that will make my son say "you mean this plant has fruit too?"

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  1. The deli case at the Athens Grocery in Greektown is pretty good, the fresh taramasalata is ever a temptation. I have not tried the dolma, but would definitely give it a shot. Also, I do not know what brand it is, but Stanley's at Elston and North carries fresh dolma in the refrigerator case.

    Athens Grocery Inc
    324 S. Halsted
    Chicago, IL. (312) 454-0940.

    3 Replies
    1. re: TJS

      Years ago I met an elderly Greek woman who was carrying a bag of leaves she had collected from vines growing wild on a railroad embankment. She was so thrilled with her discovery that she approached me, a total stranger to her, to tell me about her wonderful find. She said they were the kind of leaves she had used in Greece and that she would cure them in lemon juice and olive oil and they would make wonderful dolmas. I have never tried this (I make pretty good dolmas with canned leaves); I'm not sure leaves picked in the city are such a good idea.
      Anyone know anything about it?

      1. re: ljbs

        Hey, since you can make these--share with me the technique--I have tried and its always been a pretty huge disaster-floating empty leaves, mushy rice floating around--'nuff said. I rememberdimly from watching my friend's mom that there was a plate or two inserted in the pot, maybe a pork chop on the bottom and copious amounts of lemon.

        If you know the curing process- include that as well--i can actually get my hands on off the vines grape leaves.

        1. re: zim

          There are different techniques. I am familiar with the Middle Eastern technique which calls for tightly rolled grape leaves. For each grape leave, you stuff it with about 1/2 - 1 teaspon of the rice mix. You place it at the bottom by the stem, spread it perpendicular to the stem, and then roll it up 1,2 times towards the end of the leaf, closing the sides (rolling them in) and then rolling it back towards the end again. Here's a tip, if the leaf is as big as your hand, you'd want the rice mix to be as big as your index or a bit more.

          The rice mix is better with lamb. I think that it's one cup of ground meat for 4 cups of rice. Add salt, all spice, and the juice of a lemon or 2 to the mix.

          Put a leg of lab (or bone) in the pot, and start stacking the stuffed leaves around it.

          When done, add water about 1/2 inch over the leaves, add some more lemon juice (1-2 lemons), and on top of EVERYTHING, you add an empty place to push things down, and since the plate is not heavy enough, you top the plate with a cup/bowl full of water.

          My mom covers the bottom of the pot with sliced potatoes. That prevents the bottom layer of grape leaves from getting burnt, and allows a better heat distribution. They're also delicious as well. I think that it may take 1.5 hour for all of this to be ready. Add water as needed, taste the grape leaves before you decide they're done.

          I don't know the recipe for the vegetarian ones. I think that it's rice, tomatoes, parsley, mint, and lemon juice. If I were to guess, I'd say 4 cups of rice to 1/2 cup of tomatoes, 1/4 cup of mint, 1/4 cup of parsley, and enough lemon juice and salt to make slightly tangy.

          Sorry for these archaic instructions. If it doesn't work, try El Khayam (or El Khaymeih?) on Lawrence and Kedzie.

    2. Again (I swear, I'm not paid by these guys), I recommend the Middle Eastern Bakery on Foster, between Clark and Ashland.

      They make fresh dolma, and will tell you on the days when they're better than normal.

      1. I was impressed with the dolmas from Pita Inn Market in Skokie. This is the little store in the plaza a few doors west of the Pita Inn Restaurant. They are homemade and are found in the refrigerator case by the olives. I think they only make veggie ones, with a nicely textured and seasoned rice filling. The leaves themselves taste fresh (though I doubt they are). I remember them being pretty cheap too. It’s a nice little grocery store. You can often get still-warm pita from the bakery next door. Not the best I’ve had but it sure is fresh.

        Pita Inn Market
        3922 Dempster St
        Skokie IL

        1. There's a little neighborhood grocery called D&D Finer Foods in Evanston on Noyes, just three blocks west of Sheridan Rd., that has pretty good dolmades but they are not made every day (so ask what day they were made). We also remember getting some delicious ones at the Middle Eastern joint on Clark near Reza's (just south of Reza's; although Reza's has some pretty terrific stuff, too) (this is Andersonville).By the way,D&D also has a good spinach pie and a dandy meat counter (including a ready-to-eat roast chicken and greek-style potatoes. Plus we just really like Tom and the gang who work there...

          1. My favorite is the Egyptian style - anybody seen an Egyptian restaurant lately?

            Old Jerusalem (Wells near Schiller) does a pretty good grape leaf.

            I believe Greeks (and Armenians?) are the only ones who put meat in them - anybody?

            2 Replies
            1. re: Tom R (TJR)

              I think I mentioned in the original post that the meat ones I remember were iraqi

              1. re: Tom R (TJR)

                The only Egyptian restaurant I know is Pharaohs, 3949 W Lawrence about half a block east of Pulaski. This is yet another one I know almost nothing about but have been meaning to try. I haven’t even seen the menu but the place looks very promising.