"I would probably - I don't know if my grandma would make my last meal, but I love her dolma and tabbouleh"
Alia Shawkat - Actor
It's always been touch and go when it comes to your grandmother's cooking. Some, like Alia, absolutely adore it; while others avoid it like the bubonic plague. Nonetheless, we at ChowFu know that it's impossible to compete with a welcoming home cooked meal. We also discovered the hard way that wrapping dolmas' may not be our strongest culinary skillset. The taste, however, was spot on.
For those who have never heard of it, tabbouleh is a popular middle eastern dish made primarily of tomatoes, parsley, and sometimes bulgur wheat. It is often served as part of a meze (a set of dishes/appetizers prior to the main dish), and can work perfectly well as a salad before a meal. In Lebanon, the first Saturday in July has been declared National Tabbouleh Day, in celebration of the dish. We do a variation of the dish that tries to stay true to the ingredients in a traditional tabbouleh, but keep a coarser cut in the parsley for some added texture and presentation. This recipe turned out extremely well in the ChowFu test kitchen with no leftovers to speak of.
Not surprisingly, we draw inspiration again from one of our favorite chefs, David Tanis. Tanis is best known as the ex-head chef of Chez Panisse, an award winning restaurant in Berkeley that prides itself on using locally fresh, organic ingredients in its cooking. Tanis has a number of mouth-watering cookbooks that showcase how coupling the best ingredients with simple techniques can yield surprisingly rich and succulent flavors. In particular, we recommend the book, Heart of the Artichoke and Other Kitchen Journeys, where we found our inspiration for today's recipe. [Note: The link provided is an affiliate link to Amazon. If you want to help support ChowFu.co and subsidize the cost of running our website, just click on the link above when you do your regular Amazon shopping. It comes at no cost to you and we get some credit from Amazon for the referral! Furthermore, we only link to items we own and highly recommend.]
Dolma is a common Middle Eastern dish made of stuffed vegetables (tomatoes, bell peppers, onions, etc), but is often popularized as a dish of stuffed grape or cabbage leaves. The filling in both of these cases may or may not contain meat, so we'll use a liberal interpretation of Alia's much beloved family dish. After working on three prior vegetarian dishes (we did Maggie Q's deathrow meal prior to this), we hungered for a dolma stuffed with meat and grains.
The base of our recipe comes from some internet research, and we'll make some improvisations along the way to bolster some personal flavors. The stuffing is a combination of ground beef and lamb, mixed in with a plethora of herbs and spices and wrapped in a couple grape leaves. The end result was a dish with strong mediterranean flavors and an almost sasage like stuffing which balanced perfectly with our lighter tabbouleh.
Since this was our first foray into making dolmas, we recommend making adjustments and permutations as it befits your personal flavor profile.