When I think of making food with my Teta, this is what I remember. Sitting on the ground for hours (or what seemed) picking through grape leaves. Oh and the rolling. She taught me how to roll the tightest, most perfect grape leaves. Nothing like the sloppy, fat, loose "dolmas" you find at the markets or faux Middle Eastern restaurants. Yes, I am a snob. I learned from the best, what can I say.
She always used fresh leaves. So fresh that she would wander around the wooded area of our neighborhood and pick them herself. (Oh trees, how I miss you). She even got stopped by a cop, which was hilarious to me since she doesn't speak a lick of English. Although just a couple weeks ago she learned how to ask "Where baby?"
Well, grapeleaves aren't in season here (even if they were, I am far too lazy to go strolling around town picking them off vines on the side of the road), so I used swiss chard leaves instead. And can we all just take a moment to pause and admire the color of these leaves? They are truly this vibrant in real life. I felt so cool buying them. Making these is another monster of an undertaking, so I would recommend making this a two-parter adventure. Do the filling one day, and call a friend to stuff with you the next.
1 cup bulgur
2 tomatoes, chopped small (you could also use canned diced tomatoes)
1 medium-large onion chopped
1 cup finely chopped parsley (= to 1 bunch)
1/4-1/2 cup chopped mint
1/2 can chick peas (slightly mushed)
1/4 cup olive oil
the juice of 1 lemon
1/2-1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
vegetable broth (enough to cover leaves)
sprinkle of allspice and pepper
1-2 tomatoes, sliced thinly
3-4 bunches of swiss chard (stem removed, cut in thirds vertically)
Combine first 13 ingredients in a bowl. Set aside (or make the day before). Rinse swiss chard, remove stem, cut in thirds lengthwise. The photo shows fourths. Do not do that. Unless you want teeny tiny bite size leaves. Blanch the leaves in boiling water for about 60 seconds. Now you can boil the whole leaf, or cut and then boil. I cut first, not sure if this was good or not. It all worked out in the end, so do whichever you please. Just be sure not to leave them in too long, remove from heat the moment the wilt.
To assemble: lay leaf lengthwise, fill with small spoonful of filling near bottom of leaf. Roll up halfway, crease in sides and continue to roll. Lay each one tightly in a pot lined with thinly sliced tomatoes. Once complete, lay a dinner plate face down on the leaves and place a rock or something heavy on the plate. I covered a brick in tin foil and used that. Then pour broth with allspice and pepper over the plate. Bring to a boil, then simmer on low for one hour. Remove from broth and enjoy.