Manassas Journal Messenger | TASTE Dolmades wrap: a ticket to Greece
CONCORD, N.H. – It was a thick, hot summer day and I was stuck in Boston on business with a pile of dull paperwork to be read and digested.
It was dull and I was hungry. Not gosh-I’m-feeling-bit-peckish-and-wouldn’t-a-snack-be-nice hungry. I was full-on, belly-gnawing hungry, mostly because I’d skipped breakfast to beat the rush-hour commute and it now was noon.
Mind you, this shouldn’t have been a problem. Boston has no shortage of great eateries, including a delicious array of Italian options in its famous North End.
You’ve got to love a neighborhood that can support 24-hour bakeries.
But the North End was a good mile’s walk away and I was short on time. The only nearby eateries were chain restaurants, places I mostly think should be outlawed on account of lowering the national bar for good taste.
There also was Faneuil Hall.
When I was a child, going in to Boston to visit Faneuil Hall – a 250-something-year-old marketplace at the heart of the city – was a big deal. Back then the area was populated mostly by funky local shops.
And the food! Think mall food court without the mall, or the cheesy chains. On both sides of a long hall, dozens of local eateries offered everything from fresh bagels and (Boston) baked beans to lobster and pastries.
In recent years I’d noticed the locals were leaving and the chains moving in. I stopped visiting.
But on this afternoon, I had little choice. I wandered over and strolled past one chain food purveyor after another. Just how many varieties of french fries, pizza and burgers do we need?
Then I noticed an auspicious Greek takeout tucked among the smoothie and cookie stands. It offered two varieties of stuffed grape leaves (a food for which, if well made, I would trade my wife) – with and without meat.
Clearly, I take stuffed grape leaves seriously. I’ve even harvested leaves from the grape vines in my yard, hoping to use them to whip up a batch of the perfect dolmades, as they are properly called. (Don’t try it. If you won’t know what you’re doing – and I didn’t, and still don’t – they taste like dry cabbage, only worse.)
When the gentleman behind the counter asked what I wanted, I hesitated. “Surprise me,’’ I said. “But make sure stuffed grape leaves are involved.’’
He didn’t blink. Maybe everyone trusts him and allows him to decide their order. I thought I was being whimsical. I was expecting to get a dull assortment of veggies marinated in Greek dressing with a few dolmades on the side.
What I got was nothing short of amazing. He took a large flatbread and piled onto it greens and crumbled feta cheese. To that he added strips of roasted red peppers and, most important, a handful of plump dolmades.
He then doused the whole thing with Greek dressing and rolled it up, wrapping it tightly in deli paper.
Stuffed grape leaves as a sandwich filling? I would not have come up with that on my own.
I am so glad he did. It was delicious and, thanks to his generous use of dressing, a bit messy – but it was so worth it.
I haven’t been back to Faneuil Hall since that visit two years ago, but I have persuaded the deli downstairs from my office to offer their own version of the sandwich, and they are a cinch to make at home.
To make life easy, I buy everything prepared. If you don’t have flatbread, a large pita pocket works fine.
Most grocers now offer stuffed grape leaves alongside their hummus (just check the ingredients to make sure the dolmades you get are vegetarian), and jarred roasted red peppers are as common as pickles.
I like to make these wraps just as the Greek stand in Boston did, messy with extra dressing. For a cleaner presentation, cut back the dressing to 1 tablespoon per wrap.
(Start to finish 10 minutes)
2 large flatbreads (or pita pockets)
2 cups mixed salad greens
2 roasted red peppers, cut into thin strips
½ cup finely diced red onion
½ cup crumbled feta cheese
10 dolmades (or more, depending on size)
4 tablespoons Greek dressing
Set each bread flat on the counter. Arrange 1 cup of green down the center of each, topping that with half of the roasted red peppers and red onions, and ¼ cup feta cheese.
Arrange 5 dolmades on each bread over the cheese and greens. You may need more if your bread is especially large or your dolmades are small.
Top the wrap fillings with 2 tablespoons Greek dressing, then fold up the sides and wrap tightly.
Makes 2 wraps.