Grape Leaves – Part 1

Remember a few weeks ago when I showed you meme and pepe’s grapevine? And remember how I teased you with the promise of how to make grape leaves?

Well, I’m making good on that promise.

You know that show on Cooking Channel, My Grandmother’s Ravioli? Well this is sort of like that.

Except she’s not my grandmother- she’s my fiance’s. And she’s not a grandmother- she’s meme.

And it’s not ravioli – it’s dolma.

So Meme’s Dolma!

Dolma is the term for vegetables or cabbage or grape leaves stuffed with a seasoned meat mixture. We came over to meme’s to learn to make grape leaves, but what she does is make a big bowl of the seasoned meat mixture and then stuff grape leaves, cabbage leaves and vegetable like tomatoes and eggplants and peppers.

This post is going to cover the meat mixture. The next one will walk you through rolling grape leaves.

I am going to try my best to write this out properly, but meme is not easy to follow.

Like most grandmas, she cooks by taste and by feel. She knows what it should look like.  She knows what it should taste like. She’s made this a million times, so it comes easy to her.

But here it is, the stuffing for dolma.

I suggest having everything out or having another person on hand to pass you things.


Meme is directing. Pepe is cleaning.


I’m taking pictures, while Sam and Chris write it all down.


Jeff’s capturing it all on video.


Okay. Here we go. In a large bowl, pour in two cups of medium rice which you’ve rinsed thoroughly. Meme said medium rice. Not long. Medium.

IMG_0838 Next add in one large white onion, diced and the scooped out insides from a few tomatoes. To get the scooped out insides, cut the top off of a tomato and dig out the insides with a spoon. (Don’t cut through the tomato all the way. You want to turn the tomato into a container to hold the meat stuffs later) I asked meme how many tomatoes but she kind of shrugged. I’m guessing 3 or 4.IMG_0842  IMG_0844IMG_0843

To the bowl add flat leaf parsley chopped up. Again, no precise measurements but I’m going to guesstimate a cup and a half to two cups.


Right? That looks like two cups?


Next add in 1 teaspoon of coriander, 1 teaspoon of the armenian red pepper that I still don’t know how to spell (Chris’s writing looks something like halibebebae – when they say it, it kind of sounds like holla baby bear) and 1 teaspoon of salt.



Next we add 1 cup of really good Greek olive oil. Meme said one cup, but then she handed Sam that coffee cup. She says she measured it out in a measuring cup, but we’re skeptical.


Now comes the meat. Meme used about a pound of ground sirloin and then another pound total of a veal, pork and beef mix. The right way to do it is to use lamb. I used to not like lamb, so meme switched it up for me. (I do like lamb now though so next time we will do it the right way).


You really need a big, big bowl for this.


To the meat, add in two thirds of a cup of tomato sauce (I think it’s just tomato puree) and a little less than a third of a cup of fresh lemon juice.


Here is the most important part. I’m quoting meme directly now. “No garlic, no dolma.” You need two “blobs” of minced garlic. From what I gather, a blob is less than a heaping tablespoon but more than a regular tablespoon.


When you have everything in the bowl, it’s time to wash your hands…


… and dig in.


And get to mixing!


Pause for a family picture!


And then get back to mixing. Changing of the guard here as meme tells Chris how to mix it right. IMG_0862

And then as I tell him how to mix it right.


And then he finally mixes it right.


And then his arms started hurting.


But thankfully the mixing was done.


So there you have it. The stuffing for dolma. Next, a lesson in grape leaf rolling.

20 thoughts on “Grape Leaves – Part 1

  1. Haaaaaaaaah! Loved the stuffing for Dolma! We will now call “Halebi Biber” — HOLLA BABY BEAR!!

    For those who don’t know what “Halebi Biber” is – its grounded fresh red pepper that you buy in Armenian/Sirian specialty stores. “Haleb” is really called and spelled Alep or Aleppo and in Arabic they say Haleb. It is a city of northwest Syria near Turkish border inhabited as early as the 6th millennium B.C. Alep was a key point on the caravan route across Syria to Baghdad and later a major center of Christianity in the Middle East. It is now the country’s largest city. I am assuming that [back in the day…] Aleppo “Haleb” must have had the best red pepper for that region so when Armenians use red pepper the name stuck. Halebi (Alep, Seria) and Biber (means pepper)! And there is a little history on where Halebi Biber came from.

    Love Mom P.

  2. OMG! This is great!!! LILO this.. LILO that!!! Loved the guessing- 3-4 tomatoes, and the looks like 2 cups!! Right? A coffee cup = 1 cup? hahaaaaaaaaaaa .. but the best part was the blobs of garlic!! I cant wait for part 2!! and I cant wait to try the receipt!!

  3. This was excellent. And I am sure it is delicious too! Making my stomach grumble just thinking about it!

  4. It looked like so much fun!! I loved watching the series and can’t wait for the rolling “episode”… I can only imagine the wonderful smell throughout Meme and Pepe’s home…. and then of course eating the wonderful Dolma/Sarma…from the best Armenian cook I know.. Jacky, I enjoy all your postings and writing style.. Beautiful.. I look forward to meeting you very soon and want to congratulate you and Christopher on your engagement!!! We are so excited and happy for both of you.. I am sure you know what a wonderful young man you will share your life with. xoxoxo

  5. We love grape leaves! I will have to try your recipe. I make stuffed squash but I have never attempted the grape leaves. I am terrible at rolling things like that so I will be looking at that post next.

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  7. What a fun experience! Love, love, love grape leaves! I’ll have to share this with my husband, as he is the cook in the house.

  8. Oh my god, I’m dying. This is how my Armenian mom “shares” a recipe. (“By taste. Eyeball it. A blob.”) Thanks for sharing this- and happy SITS day!

    • Oh my gosh! Too funny! Meme is Armenian. As is my mother in law. I swear it’s a trick so you can never actually cook it yourself but will always need to ask them

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