The last stuffed vegetables of summer

Maria Iordanidou, Loxandra   ‘Add a lot of onion in the yialantzi dolma, so it will be tasty, but also add mint, to make it easy to digest.’  

Basically, most foods are suitably for stuffing. Bread, meat, innards, fish, oysters, eggs, vegetables, pasta, fruits have been stuffed, since a long time ago. The elaborated stuffing of pigs, lambs and breads during the Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine years was not only a matter of culinary skill but first of all a demonstration of wealth and power. The stuffed egg was a popular appetizer in the parties of 60ties· tomatoes filled with mashed aubergines, mayonnaise, cucumber and parsley was a sophisticated cold dish of the same decade. Both preparations were showy in a fashionable way.Although there is a tradition of stuffed foods in Greece and there are some literal testimonies for cooked foods wrapped in fig leaves, it is supposed that the stuffed vegetables originated in the Ottoman cuisine.  On the 17th century, the European visitors of Thessaly mention aubergines which were hollowed out and filled with vegetables, marjoram and thyme. In the personal cookbooks of the early 20th century there are recipes of stuffed tomatoes and other vegetables. However it was the arrival of the refugees of Asia Minor in Greece that blessed the local greek cuisines with a highly elaborated culinary tradition, and brought various preparations of stuffed vegetables and fruits.

In nowadays, every summer, peppers, tomatoes, aubergines, zucchinis, onions, zucchinis flowers, vine leaves, large basil leaves, etc. are filled with rice, onions and herbs, or with a mixture of minced meat and rice and/or grain, or rice and grain. Zucchinis flowers may be filled with cheese.  In any case, the filling includes herbs, parsley, black pepper, in certain cases cumin, lemon juice, onions and olive oil. Rice filling may include currants and pine seeds, according to Asia’s Minor tradition. It may also be spiced with cinnamon. 

The stuffed grape leaves are called dolmades· the word is a loan from Turkish language and means filled. The meatless dolmades are called yalantzi· in Turkish yalanci means false, thus a yalantzi dolma is a false stuffed vegetable· false: according to the meat- eating tradition of Ottoman cuisine.

In the cuisine of Greek islands and Crete, meat dolmades are not common, unlike to the cuisine of northern Greece. Cretans, almost always, serve their dolmades with yogurt, as well as they do to the other stuffed vegetables.

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