Healthy Green: stuffed grape leaves, can't get more green than this!

Since I was a toddler, the smell of Armenian "Dolma" filled our home on a monthly basis. I grew up with a strong notion that preparing this dish was so difficult and why we enjoyed it on rare occasions. Now that I am far from home, I decided to take it on, otherwise I would never taste it again. Recipe at hand, I carefully selected the best ingredients and set my kitchen up to make the process as painless as possible. I didn't quite get it right the first time, but now on my fifth attempt, I finally prepared stuffed grape leaves "Dolma" that made you eat your fingers along with it. It was so good. It is also very healthy. Here's what you need:

1. Grape leaves, you can buy these in jars at any local ethnic grocery store, Orlando Grape Leaves from CA are very good. Or, you can cut and collect the leaves from your back yard. My father in law has grape vines in his yard and I get a whole bunch, so much that I simply wrap the extra in foil and freeze it.

2. 2lbs Lean ground beef, (organic preferably)

3. Two large yellow onions

4. 10 cloves of garlic

5. Two bunch of chives

6. One bunch of Cilantro

7. One bunch of parsley

8. One bunch of Dill

9. Salt and pepper

10. One cup of basmati white rice

11. Sliced tomatoes

Here's how you prepare:

1. Put your leaves in water in a large casserole and bring them to a boil. Then turn it off, get them out and let them sit in a flat plate. 

2. Put your lean ground beef in a large bowl, add salt and pepper, one teaspoon each or more to taste.

3. Take all your greens, chives, cilantro, dill, parsley and rinse them thoroughly in cold water, drain and chop as small as you can. Use a chopper. Add your chopped greens to your meat. 

4. Chop your onions and garlic as well and add to your meat. Keep some garlic for garnish.

5. Add the cup rice and finally add a teaspoon of olive oil and work the meat until you feel it is well mixed.

Turn on your favorite t.v. show, place your meat bowl, your grape leaves and your casserole on the table and start rolling. I have my five year old help me, she has fun digging her hands in the meat (of course I caution her not to put her fingers in her mouth and keep watch). She's pretty good at rolling the grape leaves and enjoys helping mummy.

So place a leaf on your plate pointy side up, take a bit of the meat filling and spread horizontally. Start by folding the lower flaps up towards the point of the leaf, covering the meat. Using your fingertips, roll it away from you a half-turn. Fold in flaps again and roll to the end. Use your judgement on how tight you roll it. Some people do it loosely others put the extra effort to have perfect rolls. Either way the "Dolma" will come out tasting great.

Once you've rolled enough to finish the meat, and they are nicely placed in your casserole, scatter sliced garlic on top, add slices of fresh tomatoes or you can add tomato paste in the water, pour water until your rolled leaves are slightly covered. Place a plate upside down on top, put a mug filled with water on the plate to add weight and place the lid on the mug. This weight is to keep from the rolled leaves to rise and unwrap during cooking. 

Bring to a boil and reduce to medium, half an hour to 45 minutes later when the water is all gone, pull off the heat and serve. In typical Armenian fashion, we eat our tender, juicy stuffed grape leaves with pita bread and yogurt. It is always and will always be a special meal, the day we have "Dolma".

Now it wasn't as hard as I thought, it is just time consuming. If you're well organized in the kitchen however, you can cut your time in half. You'll also get to roll those leaves faster with practice. It took me one hour and half to prepare.

You can't get more Green than this! "Dolma" is a very healthy meal, here's why:

Chives have been found to comprise of mild anti-inflammatory properties. They are said to aid digestion, chives can help the body in digesting fatty foods, such as cheese, and are beneficial for the respiratory system. A good remedy for fatigue.
Known to reduce obesity and fluid retention. At last but not least, researchers say that chives reduce the risk of prostate cancer, by as much as 50 percent.
Native to Western Africa, Southern Russia and the Mediterranean region: Dill, used for its extraordinary aroma and flavor and also for its unique medicinal properties. Long ago, soldiers applied burnt dill seeds on their wounds. Dill is rich in nutrients and minerals, making it a highly nutritious food. An excellent stomach soother and insomnia reliever.
I call it Coriander all my life, then I moved to California where the seed is generally referred to as coriander, and the leaves as cilantro. Native to southern Europe and North Africa to southwestern Asia; Coriander was cultivated in Greece since at least the second millennium BC. One of the Linear B tablets recovered from Pylos refers to the species as being cultivated for the manufacturing of perfumes, it was used as a spice for its seeds and as a herb for the flavor of its leaves. Rich in anti-oxidants and dietary fiber, coriander in an herb that helps reduce bad cholesterol. A good source of potassium, calcium, manganese, iron, and magnesium. Known to help control heart rate and blood pressure. One of the richest herbal sources for vitamin K and has been said to treat Alzheimer's disease patients by limiting neuronal damage in their brain.
Finally Parsley, I grew up with Parsley, used in many dishes especially the famous taboule, a salad solely made of Parsley finely shopped, Bulgar and chopped tomato topped with lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. In America it is mostly viewed as a garnish - unfortunately. Parsley is a strong anti-inflammatory, low in saturated fat, a good source of protein, vitamin A, C, and E and dietary fiber among many other minerals. Also known to control of high blood pressure. A natural diuretic, also said to improve blood flow and strengthen bladder.

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