Nasturtiums are one of the most versatile plants in your flower garden: they look pretty, you can eat the flowers and leaves raw in salads, you can pickle the buds and seed pods to make capers... and, as it happens, you can stuff the leaves to make dolmades.
inspired by Cafe Nilsen
and adapted from Madhur Jaffery's World-of-the-East Vegetarian Cooking
for the filling:
1/2 c. long grain rice
1/2 c. finely chopped herbs (we used a mix of parsley, mint and dill)
5 small spring onions, including greens, minced
1/8 c. pine nuts chopped
1/2 tsp salt
good grinding of black pepper
15-20 of the largest nasturtium leaves in your garden
several large chard leaves... or whatever green you have in abundance and is looking moth-eaten; or if you have a mother of a crop of nasturtium with leaves to spare, a bunch of those... in any case, enough to line a small sauce pan*
for the steaming broth:
1/4 c. olive oil
1/4 c. fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp sugar
3 garlic cloves, smashed
1/4 tsp salt
water (about 1/2 c., more as needed)
*choose your pan keeping this in mind: you need to be able to pack these tightly so they don't unroll when cooking, you also need to have a heatproof plate that fits inside the pan to weigh down the dolmades... you can layer the them but you cannot make a loosely packed pan tight... so choose the smallest pan you can get away with
Make the filling: Bring 5 c. water to a boil, add the rice, return to boil and boil rapidly for 5 minutes. Drain and rinse well under cold water. Mix together with remaining filling ingredients, set aside.
Next we stuff the leaves. If you have PMS, a hangover, or are in a generally crooked mood, cover your filling and refrigerate and try again another day. If you are feeling happy and well-adjusted, or at least reasonably calm, feel free to proceed.
Stuff the dolmades: Line the bottom of your saucepan with leaves. We used chard leaves because we had some old stringy chard in the garden; it's not important what sort of leaf you use, but the idea is to keep the dolmades from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Lay a nasturtium leaf stem-side down; put a scant teaspoon of filling slightly lower than center. If you use too much filling it will burst through the leaf during cooking, so yes, it doesn't look like a lot, but trust us, it's enough. Gently fold the bottom of the leaf over the filling (about 1/4 of the way up, depending a bit where the filling landed); gently fold the left and right sides in. Starting at the bottom, slowly and carefully roll up into a little package. (See helpful diagram for stuffing and rolling the leaves.) Place seam-side down in the pan. Repeat until you are out of leaves, out of filling, or your pan is full. Pack these in tightly to prevent unrolling during cooking. You can have two layers if you need to.
Steam the dolmades: BEFORE YOU PUT YOUR LIQUID IN, place your heatproof plate in the pan on top of your beautifully rolled dolmades to weigh them down. Mix together ingredients for steaming broth; pour broth into pan over plate. Over medium heat, bring to boil then cover and turn down to a simmer. Cook on simmer for 1 hour. Keep checking the pot: you want to steam these babies until the rice is cooked but you don't want to run out of liquid so add water if needed. However, at the end of the hour, your liquid should be fully or mostly evaporated.
Cool and serve at room temperature or refrigerate and serve cold.
As far as we're aware, there is only one farmer in the province growing grapes, at a scale that sounds most probably for personal consumption or as a novelty crop... and clear across the island, so not very handy for trying to buy a couple dozen leaves. These days, you can buy bottled grape leaves at the local grocery stores (in St. John's, anyway), and we sometimes do, but that's a winter purchase. You can even buy tinned dolmades (which are rather handy for picnicking or camping) and I'm willing to bet they can be found in at least a few restaurants across the island. At any rate, it turns out the grape leaf is entirely unnecessary if you're willing to make it up and make do with what's on-hand... in late summer when the nasturtiums in your garden are going like mad, collect some of those leaves and make a batch.