Turkish Dolmas (and history lesson)

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I watched Gourmet's Diary of a Foodie on Turkey and felt conflicted. Should I keep watching? Should I change the channel? Should I make that delicious dolma recipe? Despite my mixed feelings, I obviously decided to try it out. You might think, mixed feelings? Context please!

Well, some of you may have figured it out already, but in case you didn't - I am half Armenian. And, Armenians and Turks tend to have... strained relations. Its hard not to have strained relations with a group of people who systematically and deliberately destroyed the Armenian population in the Ottoman Empire during and after WWI. It's even harder to forgive a group of people who to this day, denies that genocide ever occured. Apparently, they tried to deport a lot of people, and about 1.5 million of them happened to die. Things like this happen. And that's the story the Turks have been sticking to.

My grandmother was born in Turkey, in 1916, and I've heard many stories what it was like living in the Ottoman Empire during this time. None of them were good stories.

So I know you're probably bored of the mini history lesson here, but context is important. And my grandma was always quick to point out there are good people and bad people in every nationality, it is not right to hate all Turks, as there were several Turkish families that helped my relatives along the way. It is because of them I am blogging right now!

We kids, did not grow up hating the Turks (as did many of my relatives), but what frustrated my elders, and still frustrates me, is without learning from our mistakes, we are bound to repeat them, and it's hard to learn from something that is still being disputed, as if 1.5 million dead is not evidence enough.

In the end, I decided delicious food comes first. And I will educate/trick my blog readers into learning about the genocide through this recipe. I hope you have enjoyed it.

Below is the recipe as it appears on Gourmet.com
Turkish Herbed Beef-and-Rice-Stuffed Peppers, Zucchini, and Tomatoes
Diary of a Foodie: Season Three: Turkey: Iftar in Istanbul

For tomatoes and filling
8 medium (5- to 6-oz) tomatoes, left whole, plus 1 large (1/2-lb) tomato, chopped
3 medium onions, chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 cup white rice (preferably medium- or short-grain)
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 lb ground beef (preferably 80 to 85 percent lean)
3 tablespoons chopped dill
3 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 tablespoons chopped mint

For zucchini and peppers
6 (1/2-lb) zucchini
6 (5- to 7-oz) green bell peppers
For baking stuffed vegetables
3 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cups water
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Prepare tomatoes:
Cut a thin slice from tops of 6 tomatoes, reserving tops. Hollow out tomatoes by scooping out pulp with a spoon and drain pulp in a sieve. Chop pulp. (Set aside remaining 2 whole tomatoes for slicing.)

Make filling:
Cook onions in oil in a heavy medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened but not browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Add chopped tomato and 3/4 cup chopped tomato pulp and cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid from tomatoes has evaporated and pieces of tomato begin to break down, about 5 minutes.

Add rice and cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Add water and bring to a boil, then simmer, covered, over low heat until rice is tender and water is absorbed, about 20 minutes. Transfer rice mixture to a large bowl, spreading in a thin layer to facilitate cooling, and chill until cool, about 20 minutes.

Add beef, herbs, 1 3/4 tsp salt, and 1 tsp pepper to cooled rice mixture, kneading with your hands until mixture is smooth.

Prepare zucchini and pepper while filling cooks and cools:

Trim ends and cut zucchini crosswise in half. If necessary, trim zucchini halves to fit upright in a deep 7-qt heavy pot with a tight-fitting lid. With a melon-ball cutter, starting from the wider end, hollow out each zucchini half to form a cup, leaving about 1/2 inch intact at bottom.

Cut tops off peppers, then discard seeds and ribs. Wash tops of peppers well around stems and reserve.

Bake stuffed vegetables:

Preheat oven to 400°F with rack in middle.

Spoon filling into tomatoes, zucchini, and peppers.

Arrange stuffed tomatoes in an 8- or 9-inch cake pan lined with foil. Stir tomato paste into water, then add 1/2 cup to cake pan, reserving remaining tomato water. Put tops on tomatoes and cover tightly with foil. Bake until an instant-read thermometer inserted into center of filling registers at least 140°F, about 45 minutes.

While stuffed tomatoes bake, cut remaining 2 tomatoes into thin slices and arrange in 1 layer in 7-qt pot, then drizzle oil over them. Stand zucchini and peppers in pot, leaning them against each another and wedging pepper tops among them to keep them upright. Sprinkle remaining chopped tomato pulp over stuffed vegetables. Pour reserved tomato water around stuffed vegetables and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into center of filling registers at least 140°F, 20 to 25 minutes.

Carefully transfer stuffed vegetables to a serving dish and add sugar and lemon juice to cooking liquid in pot. Boil until reduced to about 1 cup, about 10 minutes. Season with salt. Spoon a little cooking liquid over each vegetable.

I followed this recipe pretty well, except I didn't make as many vegetables, and I did also add shallots in substitution for some onions and added scallions (uncooked,to the rice and meat mixture).

I served the dolmas with a pretty standard yogurt sauce.
1 small garlic clove
1 cup plain Turkish- or Greek-style yogurt
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 to 3 tablespoons water

Oh, and we had an improvised dessert of ice cream, strawberries and dark chocolate.
Nothing like stuffed vegetables to make you realize you can forgive on your own terms, even if your forgiveness is not welcome. After all, you are doing it for yourself.

1 comment:

  1. i love anything that is stuffed! i really want to try this, i had an ex boyfriend whose russian grandma always made stuffed cabbage that was unbelievable this recipe reminds me of that:) thanks for sharing:)