© Constantine William Spyrou
Even though I've made a lot of recipes here and have a ton of culinary knowledge, there's always something knew to learn. This past week, I learned how to turn goat cheese into a delicious, creamy, and thick sauce that be utilized in many areas. That gave me the idea to utilize it almost like a tzatsiki sauce. Tzatsiki is a traditional Greek yogurt sauce with cucumber, mint, lemon, and seasoning.
I didn't want to exactly mimic the flavor of tsatziki, however, as I wanted the goat cheese to really shine through. So, I decided to use it as a balance for homemade dolmades, which are traditionally steamed in lemon juice and have a sour note. The richness and tang of the goat cheese sauce helps bring back the flavor of the dolmade and balance it.
Dolmades are also known more commonly as stuffed grape leaves. The recipe here is a version with ground beef, rice, and spices from both Greece and the Middle East. To make it vegetarian, simply remove the ground beef and parboil the rice in water and a touch of lemon juice and seasoning while mixing with everything else.
Recipe will make 20-30 dolmades to feed 4-5 people.
For the Goat Cheese Dip:
1/3 cup chevre goat cheese (chosen for its creamy texture)
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup diced cucumbers
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons dried oregano
For the Dolmades:
40-45 grape leaves, rinsed individually
1 1/4 pounds ground beef
2 cups uncooked white rice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice ( + enough to steam the dolmades, about 2-3 cups)
Salt and pepper to season
1/2 tablespoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons diced onion
2 cloves minced garlic
2 teaspoons dill
1 teaspoon sumac
1/2 tablespoon zatt'ar spice
1. Combine the ground beef, rice, olive oil, lemon juice, spices, onion, and garlic until completely mixed together. Marinate in the fridge for at least an hour to let the flavors come together.
2. Line the bottom of your pot with 5 grape leaves to keep the stuffed ones from burning.
3. Add about 1-2 ounces of the filling mixture to the rough,veined side of a grape leaf where the stem would be (most jarred grape leaves come with the stem on as a point of reference, trim it off before rolling though!) 4. Roll the grape leaf forward first to surround the filling, then tuck in the sides and finish rolling to seal the grape leaf. Layer the stuffed grape leaves as they are made into the pot.
5. Fill the pot halfway with lemon juice. Cover with another layer of 5 flat grape leaves, then weigh down a plate on top of the dolmades to apply slight pressure (about 2-3 pounds of weight should suffice at least).
6. Cover the pot and steam at a medium-low heat for 45 minutes. As the dolmades steam, make your goat cheese dipping sauce.
7. Whisk together the goat cheese and heavy cream until fully combined into a smooth, thick mixture. Add in the cucumber, salt, pepper, and oregano, and stir to combine. Serve with the steamed grape leaves.
The goat cheese dip really is the star that brings everything together for this dish. It's an amazing sauce that counteracts brilliantly with the sour yet savory notes of the grape leaves, making an all-around balanced flavor that bounces off of every part of your palate!
I hope you enjoyed this recipe! Let me know what you think and what you would change. If you make it at home, let me know how it turns out! Enjoy! =)