Once the grape leaves are rolled, they're braised in broth and lemon juice. Their fragrant, slightly tart taste adds flavor to the broth, which is thickened with cornstarch to form a dipping sauce for the dolmades. They make great appetizers. Look for grape leaves in the Mediterranean section of your supermarket.
1 cup coarsely chopped fennel (about 1 bulb)
1/2 cup coarsely chopped onion
1/4 cup coarsely chopped green onions
1/2 pound ground round
2 tablespoons uncooked medium-grain rice
2 tablespoons uncooked bulgur
1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
1 large tomato, cored and cut in half crosswise (about 1 pound)
1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or dash of crushed red pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
30 bottled large grape leaves
1 (15.75-ounce) can fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon water
3 tablespoons chopped fresh or 1 tablespoon dried dill
Lemon wedges (optional)
How to Make It
Combine first 3 ingredients in a food processor, and process until minced. Combine the fennel mixture with beef, rice, bulgur, and oil. Grate tomato halves over mixture; discard skin. Sprinkle beef mixture with pepper and salt; stir to combine.
Rinse grape leaves under cold water; drain and pat dry with paper towels. Remove stems, and discard. Spoon 1 rounded tablespoon of beef mixture onto the center of each grape leaf. Bring 2 opposite points of leaf to center, and fold over filling. Beginning at 1 short side, roll up leaf tightly, jelly-roll fashion. Repeat procedure with remaining grape leaves.
Place stuffed grape leaves close together, seam sides down, in a Dutch oven coated with cooking spray. Add broth and juice; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 30 minutes. Carefully remove dolmades from pan. Combine cornstarch and water. Stir cornstarch mixture into broth; bring to a boil; cook for 1 minute. Stir in dill. Serve with dolmades. Garnish with lemon wedges, if desired.
Great fennel and bulgur flavors in the filling, and the sauce is abundant with the dill. Definitely needed more Aleppo pepper, which I was happy to be able to find at the grocery store, and also more salt and more olive oil.