rape leaves are an ingredient in the popular Greek dish of Dolmades. Similar recipes also occur in regional cuisines of nearby countries.

The start of the new year often begins with resolutions made to fix bad habits and/or adopt new, healthier ones. Resolutions designed around healthy eating are popular.

The Mediterranean Diet has long been touted as an informed and balanced way of eating. While not a diet, it is an approach to eating that includes foods indigenous to the Mediterranean region. It is marked by large portions of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, olive oil, as well as fish and other seafood. Poultry, eggs and cheeses are enjoyed in moderation, and fattier meats and sweet are allowed but should be limited. The guidelines also include plenty of water and a moderate amount of wine.

A transition to the Mediterranean diet doesn’t need to involve drastic changes. In fact, one can start slowly with a tasty side dish or appetizer. This recipe for “Dolmades” from “The Mediterranean Diet Cookbook” (Rockridge Press) by the editors of Rockridge University Press is a popular dish in Greece.

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Makes 20

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 shallots, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3⁄4 cup short-grain rice
  • 1⁄4 cup gold raisins
  • 1⁄4 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 2⁄3 cup water
  • 4 green onions, chopped
  • 1 small bunch mint leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 small bunch flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 20 preserved grape leaves

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots and garlic, and sauté for 5 minutes. Add the rice, golden raisins, pine nuts, and lemon juice. Season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.

Add 2⁄3 cup water, bring to a boil, and cover. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Turn off heat and allow rice to cool. Add the green onions and herbs to the rice filling and mix well.

Rinse the grape leaves in water and stuff each leaf with about 1 tablespoon of the filling. Roll tightly and place each in a steamer, seam side down. Steam for about 10 minutes, until leaves are tender. Serve warm.

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