Dolmas (Stuffed Grape Leaves) & The Joy of Mediterranean Cooking @Great Courses Plus Lecture 1 Review

I’ve long heard ads/sponsorships on podcasts for “The Great Courses Plus” so this morning I decided to start my monthlong trial and signed up for a few classes with The Great Courses Plus. I signed up for a course on investing for retirement and (more excitingly) The Everyday Gourmet: The Joy of Mediterranean Cooking.

~Note: what’s offered is less a class than just a series of lecture videos. I’m not sure if that’s because it’s The Great Courses Plus (I think it’s the cheaper sister to the actual The Great Courses series) or if none of their courses come with recommended readings, assignments, and quizzes which seem standard with other MOOCs but it wasn’t a big deal to me because I don’t ever complete many of the readings or assignments for online courses I’ve started anyway.

The course is taught by Bill Briwa, who also teaches at the CIA’s Napa campus (Culinary Institute of America – not the Central Intelligence Agency). Mark Bittman and all his ilk at the NY Times have touted the health benefits of a Mediterranean-style diet for a while now so I decided to give it a shot.


The lecture was half an hour long and consisted of three recipes (“Pinchos Morunos” or skewered food in the style of the Moors,  Brandade of Salt Cod from southern France, and Dolmas (stuffed grape leaves with rice and lamb). Bill is super easy to follow and chock-full of random interesting facts about the history and geopolitical context of the dishes he was presenting. For example, cod had to be fished out of the other side of the Atlantic (US East Coast and Canada) so the Mediterranean fishermen who traveled across the sea for fish learned the salting process of preserving from Scandinavian fishermen they ran into. This reminded me of Michael Lewis’s (first?) chapter in Boomerang in which he discusses how Iceland went from iron smelting and fishing to finance by sending all their brightest abroad to get MBAs and grinding their economy to a halt in 2008-09 as a result.

Misc. Complaints About the Lecture: I wish the recipes were included as part of a course packet because I had to guess Bill’s measurements for most ingredients.

Misc. Thoughts About the Recipe: I would add way more salt, some cumin and much more meat while reducing the amount of rice the next time I make this. It took me 10 minutes to find a jar of grape leaves at the grocery store (surprise – they were next to the olives). I couldn’t find fresh mint so I omitted it (and excluded it from the recipe) but if that’s your thing then you should add it back in.




Serving Size: 30 individual dolmas


  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 head garlic, minced
  • 4 oz ground lamb (in the future I’d use 6-8 oz ground lamb)
  • 1/2 cup long grain white rice, soaked in water for 60 min. (in the future I’d use 1/4 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3/4 tomato, chopped (or 1 whole tomato, but I had one that was missing a sliver which I ate in a sandwich the day before)
  • 1/4 cup pinenuts, pan-toasted in oil
  • 1/4 cup currants, soaked in water for 30 min. and chopped
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon dill
  • 1 tablespoon parsley
  • 30 grape leaves (about 1/3 of a jar) plus an additional 6 for laying down in the pan while cooking
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 sprig thyme
  • 3 bay leaves


  1. cook onions over medium-low or low heat until translucent; add garlic and cook another minute or so (don’t let anything burn)
  2. while onions and garlic are cooking add broth, thyme, and bay leaves into saucepan and heat over medium-low
  3. add ground lamb to onion and garlic mixture and brown
  4. add allspice and cinnamon (in the future I’d add cumin and garlic salt to this step) to the meat/onion/garlic mixture
  5. drain rice if you haven’t already and add meat mixture to it
  6. add lemon juice, chopped tomatoes, toasted pine nuts, and chopped currants to rice and meat mixture and stir well to combine
  7. add dill, parsley (and mint should you choose to do that) to the meat, veggie, and rice mixture
  8. lay out grape leaves individually on a big cutting board or other flat surface
  9. cut stems off grape leaves if they’re too long
  10. divide filling up (about 1 tablespoon per leaf) into grape leaves
  11. fold the grape leaves in the following manner:
    1. fold bottom-right side over the mix
    2. fold bottom-left side over the mix
    3. fold middle-right side of the mix
    4. fold middle-left side of the mix
    5. fold the top over and then flip it over and lay the stuffed grape leaf down so the top that you just folded over is kept pinned down
  12. line shallow pan (with fitted lid) with smaller or ripped grape leaves
  13. lay stuffed grapes in the pan starting with the outer perimeter of the pan and working inwards
  14. once you’ve laid all of your stuffed grape leaves down cover the top with more reject grape leaves (save the good grape leaves for future dolmas)
  15. pour the chicken broth herb mixture over the grape leaves (it should just about cover all the stuffed grape leaves)
  16. cook on low heat for 30-40 minutes. check every 10 minutes or so to make sure there’s enough liquid in the pan
  17. serve and enjoy! recommended with yogurt (possibly lemony dill yogurt sauce)

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