Matt was recently out looking for spring mushrooms, and came home with a lovely puff ball and a handful of morels. That same day, I was scouting for the Wild Food & Medicinal Herb CSA, and came home with dozens of beautiful fresh wild grape leaves. It was destiny – I cooked up some wild mushroom dolmas!
First I diced and sauteed the mushrooms in butter, added some garlic, and filled the house with the delicious smell of cooked wild mushrooms. I added some greens, a bit of fresh mint, and some chopped walnut to the mix. Yum!!
Wild grape leaves (Vitis californica) have a nice roundish shape – they aren’t as lobed as their domesticated cousins – making them a nice choice for dolmas. To prepare the leaves for rolling, I tossed them in a boiling salt brine (1 part salt to 4 parts water) for just a few seconds until they turned olive color, and then quickly placed them in a cold water bath. I placed the leaf shiny side down, and placed a spoonful of the mushroom blend mixed with rice on top. I carefully rolled them up (stem to tip), and tucked in the sides.
At this point I realized (as a novice dolma maker) that the dolmas should be prepared with raw rice, and then placed in the oven with water until the rice is cooked. Oops… I used cooked rice when rolling them up. But hey, the dolmas are still quite delicious! They are a little more fragile than typical dolmas, but the flavor of the buttery mushrooms shine through and complement the sourness of the leaves nicely. We’ll be serving them up tomorrow at our 5th CSA distribution of the season, and supplying our group with wild grape leaves to try it on their own. (Maybe they’ll add the dried morels they received a few weeks ago!)
Another thing I’d like to try with the grape leaves: combine the salty sour of the prepared leaves with fresh goat chevre! ‘Tis the season for fresh goat milk, now that most of this year’s kids have been born, and what a lovely thing it would be to make a fresh chevre with creamy fresh goat milk and wrap it up in a wild grape dolma!
If you have access to wild grape leaves, you can also just cook them as a mild tasting green and add them to your favorite dishes. The leaves are best eaten when young (before the vine flowers), and likely contain high levels of Vitamin A. (One cup of domesticated grape leaves have about 80% of the recommended daily intake, according to the USDA Nutrient Database). Enjoy this plentiful spring green!