The best flavours and textures of a good dolma – a Mediterranean stuffed grape leaf mezze – combine in a salad that is more fun to make and eat than the individually stuffed appetiser. Grape leaves packed in brine are available at Middle Eastern markets or online, but in a pinch, you could substitute a couple of tablespoons of rinsed and finely chopped capers to mimic the mild pickle-y taste of the grape leaves. I serve the rice salad on a bed of greens, but it’s also a great side on its own.
Brown Rice Grape Leaf Salad
1 cup (185g) brown rice, rinsed, or 10.5-ounce (300g) package fully cooked brown rice
½ teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, divided
½ cup (75g) currants
½ cup (50g) dry-roasted shelled pistachios or toasted pine nuts
1/3 cup finely chopped rinsed and drained brined grape leaves, about 12
¼ cup (40g) thinly sliced green onions
½ cup (57g) crumbled feta cheese
2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons minced fresh dill
2 tablespoons minced fresh mint
6 cups (120g) arugula or mixed greens
1 1/3 cups (380g) plain Greek yogurt
1. Prepare the rice.
If using uncooked rice: Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a heavy medium saucepan. Add the rice and ½ teaspoon kosher salt. Return the water to a boil and reduce heat to very low. Cover and simmer until the rice is tender and the water is absorbed, about 40 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand, covered, 5 minutes. Transfer the rice to a bowl, and stir in 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon lemon juice, then let cool to room temperature.
If using packaged rice: Place the rice in a large microwave-safe bowl. Add 1 tablespoon water. Cover and microwave on high 1 minute or until rice softens. Mix in 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon lemon juice.
2. Stir the currants, nuts, chopped grape leaves, green onions, feta, cilantro, dill and mint into the cooled rice.
3. In a separate large bowl, toss the arugula with the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Season the greens to taste with salt. Divide the greens among 4 plates and top with the rice salad, dividing evenly. Spoon a dollop of yogurt alongside the salad; garnish with lemon wedges and serve.
Taken from: Salad for Dinner: Complete Meals for All Seasons, Rizzoli, 2012.
About Salad for Dinner:
We all know it’s healthier to eat more vegetables and whole grains. But how do you do so on a daily basis? This book reframes the question: Why not make greens the foundation of the plate? Smart, imaginative ideas abound: kale with lemon, parmesan and almonds; Indonesian chicken salad with pineapple slaw; and salmon with quinoa, sorrel and yogurt.
Jeanne Kelley is a Los Angeles-based food writer and stylist. Her books include: Blue Eggs and Yellow Tomatoes, Salad for Dinner, The Kitchen Garden and The Portable Feast.