Saturday, November 13, 2010

Sarma (Stuffed Grape Leaves)

This is one of my favorite things to eat. In my Middle Eastern family we always called them Sarma but many people refer to them as Dolma.  As I understand it Dolma means to stuff or fill and Sarma means to wrap. No matter what you call it you may certainly call it delicious!

My Mother, my Father's sister and sisters in law, my cousins and Metzmama (that's Armenian for Grandmother) and I am guessing her mother and mother's mother many generations back made this recipe the exact same way.  I have never seen another recipe for stuffed grape leaves quite like this one and it is by far my favorite.

I will warn you that this is time consuming and requires some technique as well as lots of love. I made these with my eight year old daughter today; and so the tradition continues. I love cooking with my kids and I am glad they have an interest in learning.  My daughter did a great job at rolling up these grape leaves. I hope she enjoys the fruits of our labor as much as I know I will.

Sarma (Stuffed Grape Leaves)

1 large jar of grape leaves (approximately 100 leaves)
2 large onions thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups olive oil
1 15 oz can of chick peas (rinsed and drained)
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 cup dry long grain rice
3/4 cup chopped parsley
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/2-3/4 tsp allspice (ground)
1/2 tsp paprika
Salt and pepper to taste
Water- to cover (or Sumac Tea)
Juice of 3-4 lemons

Rinse grape leaves in a colander and drain well. Over a medium heat olive oil and add onions. Cook until very tender but not browned. Turn off heat, add the chick peas, tomato paste, parsley, walnuts, rice, allspice, paprika, salt and pepper and mix until incorporated. Transfer to a large bowl and allow to cool.

Lay grape leaves on a flat surface vein side up.  Trim stems. Place about a teaspoon of the filling onto the center of the grape leaves and wrap  into small cigar shapes.  To do this roll from the bottom with the stem portion closest to you. Fold the stem portion over the mixture and then fold the two sides of the leaf in toward the center and continue this process until you reach the point of the leaf.

Layer the stuffed grape leaves in a large pan (a dutch oven works well).  Fill with water or sumac tea until just covered. Add lemon juice (use more or less according to your taste).  Place on the stove and bring to a boil. Lower to simmer, cover and  continue to cook for about two hours until the rice is cooked.

Cool and serve at room temperature with thin lemon slices or wedges.


  1. Oh those look tasty.
    Wish someone in my household other than me, would eat them so I have an excuse to make them.

  2. wonder if cabbage leaves would work okay for this?

  3. Cabbage leaves are an interesting idea! I wold think they would work.... if you try it please let me know how it comes out. Sounds like that could be good!

  4. Sounds wonderful thought I'm a little lost with when to introduce the rice. Is that added to the cooked items before or after cooking?

  5. Steve, sorry about that... I updated the post. You do not need to cook the rice first,it cooks when you cook the stuffed leaves in the liquid. Just add it when you are finished sauteeing the onions Thanks for the catch!