(See the not quite fat free variation at the end of this post too!
It is EXTRAORDINARY!!!!)
I know that the name, "Fat Free Dolmas", must seem like an oxymoron. If you happen to love eating things dripping in olive oil, then my adaptation of this traditional Mediteranean finger food probably won't be very satisfying for you. But I have always found the excessive fat in dolmas a turn off. So I was thrilled to discover that I could make these myself and have them be almost entirely fat-free. As I type this, it is August and the only leafy green growing in abundance in my garden is swiss chard. I've been looking at it, wishing that I had some really wonderful recipe to use all those chard leaves in -- and now I do. That's the other major change I've made to this recipe -- I use chard leaves instead of grape leaves. They are (for me anyway) free and abundant, and the taste ( in this recipe) is not noticably different. Plus, they aren't nearly as stringy as some grape leaves are! There is one more major change -- I've left out using any nuts -- again to cut the fat, and I have replaced them instead with capers. Now I should mention, that every time in the past I have tried capers, I thought they were awful. The smell always reminded me of those formaldehyded speciman jars from biology lab. But recently I found a brand of capers (at Costco in fact and only 6 dollars for about a quart sized jar)
"Paesana," capers, which other then being extremely salty, are a wonderful addition to this recipe and do not smell like formaldehyde! ---->
You can leave them out entirely if you are avoiding sodium, but they really do add a lot to how good these taste. The 3 TBS that I have in this recipe adds a total of about 800 mg of sodium -- and then that is divided over about 50 dolmas -- so that only adds about 16 mg of sodium to each dolma -- for most people that's not excessive. Of course the half a cube of boulion adds another 500 mg -- so the total sodium in each dolma is going to be about 25 mg -- depending upon its size. (They will vary depending upon the size of the chard leaf used.) So here it is:
2 medium or larger onions
1/2 cup water
1/2 cube of Rapunzel Vegan Vegetable Bouillon with sea salt and herbs
about 60 swiss chard leaves
4 cups cooked long grain brown rice
1/3 cup finely chopped mint leaves (measure AFTER chopping)
2/3 cup finely chopped fresh chives (measure AFTER chopping)
2 TBS fresh lime juice split in half
3 TBS capers (make sure they are GOOD tasting ones!!)
1/2 tsp of olive oil
- Finely dice the onions and put them, the half cup of water and the half a bouillon cube into a large cast iron skillet. Turn it on high and allow to saute (uncovered) until all the water is absorbed and the onions are just starting to stick. Stir them frequently while cooking, then turn off and let sit when cooked.
- While the onions are cooking, wash the chard leaves and carefully steam them until they wilt. Set aside.
- Now add the cooked rice, mint, chives, and capers to the cast iron skillet of onions and mix well. Then add ONE tablespoon of the lime juice (lemon would work too -- lime is just what I had on hand.)
- Now set out one chard leaf on your work space, with the vein side up and the stem to your left or right. Place about a heaping teaspoon (or more depending upon the size of the leaf) of the rice mixture on the leaf -- BELOW the vein like this:
Then fold the two sides in like this:
and then roll it up tightly (away from you) and finally it looks like this
5. Take double broiler/steamer pan set................
and smear the inside of the upper part (that has steamer holes ) with the half teaspoon of olive oil. Gently place the rolled up dolmas tightly into this pan. (seam side down to keep from unrolling) When you have a layer filled, place a few chard leaves on top (to separate layers) and create a second layer of dolmas (and a third if necessary). Place about 2 inches of water in the pan that sits below the pot with dolmas. Stack the pans up, Drizzle the last TBS of lime juice over the top layer of dolmas, put the lid on and bring to a boil. Allow to steam for an hour. Allow to cool before serving.
After posting all that you just read -- I made another batch of dolmas -- but this time decided to worry less about making something "traditional" and instead just follow my instincts and put what I felt inspired to in the rice. The results were FANTASTIC, although there are a few nuts in this variation, so it is not really fat free -- but still pretty low fat. Basically here is what I did differently:
- I left out the mint, chives and lime juice and instead used about two cups of loosely packed fresh basil, plus about a tablespoon of chopped fresh thyme leaves, and a teaspoon of lemon pepper seasoning.
- To the onions I added 2 small slender eggplants diced finely and 4 large cloves of garlic.
- I may have used a few less of the capers then my recipe above called for...
- After adding the rice to the vegetables, I added about 1/3 cup of a 50/50 mixture of ground raw almonds and nutritional yeast flakes. (put 1/2 cup almonds and a 1/2 cup of yeast in blender and pulverize until a homogenous powder (store extra in the fridge and use like parmesan). Also -- do not confuse nutritonal yeast with either brewer's yeast or baking yeast -- it is very different!)
Otherwise I followed the instructions above exactly the same. I made over 60 dolmas -- and in about fifteen minutes time, a group of five people had devoured the plate. We LOVE this new recipe more then twice as much as the original one posted above. If fat is not an issue, I encourage you to just skip my first variation and try this second one right away! It is so much better!!