Don’t expect these dolmas to taste like the usual Mediterranean grape leaf rolls. They’re a sensation all to themselves.
Grape leaf cuisine can be a way for the modern gardener to eat more seasonal greens. Grape leaves are perfectly edible alone. If you taste one, you’ll find it pleasantly tart, but a bit dry and fibrous. They need a rich, volumous filling to help chew.
Grape leaves come in May and early June when other greens can be scarce. The winter greens have finished, but the summer plants not yet big. I say “come” because grape greens may literally fall off the vine.
Grape plants are not very intelligent. Sometimes they put out shoots into open air, where there is nothing for support.
When these shoots get too long, they snap off, yielding yard-long strings of tender grape leaves.
The ancient Toscans would have scoffed at the idea of buying brined grape leaves, instead making use of this windfall. Rather than letting the goats eat them up, the frugal Toscans invented oatmeal dolmas.
The ancient Toscans, a seafaring people, were in trade contact with the Scottish Isles, mainly because they liked the music. Naturally, they would also borrow from the cuisine. The Toscans didn’t have time to go out and buy fifteen different spices (especially when they were seafaring). Instead of an elaborate Mediterranean style dish, which takes all day, they came up with the simplest grape leaf rolls — oatmeal.
The word “dolma”, from the Turkish verb “dolmak”, means “to be filled,” However, in Toscan, “dolma” is a euphemism for, “Stop whining and eat! There are starving children in Scotland”.
Make a batch of oatmeal. Size depends on how many grape leaves you have.
It’s especially good with raisins and lots of nuts.
Put a portion on the base of a grape leaf, and roll it up. If you got your leaves from an actual grape vine, there will be bigger leaves and smaller ones. The small ones are of course too small to make their own dolmas. You can tuck a small leaf inside a larger one, to help fill any holes.
You don’t need to blanch the leaves or anything. Just roll them up. Then, put them in an InstantPot, with a little water, and pressure cook for 20 minutes. That’s all there is to it.
It is not known how the ancient Toscans cooked these dolmas, before the modern InstantPot, perhaps the radioactive hot springs that dot the Toscan landscape.
Each oatmeal dolma will make one or two bites. The tartness of the grape leaf is reminiscent of fruit. Be sure to eat them outdoors, preferably overlooking the sea.