Most stuffed grape leaves are filled with rice or some other grain and herbs or meat. Then they are cooked in a dutch oven sort of setup on top of the stove or baked in a casserole.
These unusual little dolmades, filled with a cornmeal-bound mixture of yogurt and fresh herbs, are quite different. You may not like them, but I do. I haven't made them much lately because they fail to use up any of the vegetables with which we are so magnificently endowed these days, but promised to write them up long ago. They hail from eastern Macedonia, where Paula Wolfert picturesquely got the recipe from "seven women grape pickers resting in the shade of a large tree."
No doubt they are, as she says, best made with wild vine leaves, or failing that, at least with fresh cultivated ones, or failing that, with frozen leaves, which I have never seen for sale. I have only used preserved leaves, rinsed very well, which she says are right out, but nonetheless I share her feeling that the resulting contrast between the crispy leaves and the cool, creamy filling is very nice indeed.
A few notes on ingredients: I have coarse cornmeal on hand, so I give it a quick whir in a spice or coffee grinder to promote it to the status of fine cornmeal. This works very well. Rather than draining my own ordinary yogurt, I've used Total Greek-style yogurt, which is already suitably thick. To drain yogurt, line a sieve with cheesecloth and place it over a large bowl. Dump the yogurt into the sieve and leave it in the fridge to drip for up to 24 hours.
GRAPE LEAVES WITH YOGURT AND HERBS
2 cups plain whole-milk yogurt, drained to make 1 1/4 cups thick yogurt
1 cup finely chopped scallions
1/4 cup snipped dill
1/4 cup shredded mint leaves
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Salt to taste
1/4 cup fine cornmeal
12 to 24 grape leaves
2 tablespoons olive oil
Combine the yogurt, scallions, dill, mint, pepper, salt, and cornmeal in a bowl, mixing thoroughly. This will make about a cup and a half of filling. It should be quite stiff.
Preheat the oven to 275° F (unless you're planning to finish things up later -- see below) and make your wraps. Spread each leaf shiny side down on your work surface and trim away the stem. Then place about 2 tablespoons of the filling in the center of the leaf and fold it up like a burrito: sides in, then fold the bottom up over the filling and roll to complete. Wrap with a second leaf, shiny side out, if you like.
At this point you can pause for a day or two -- just cover the leaves with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Bring them back to room temperature before you go on.
To cook the leaves, heat the oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Carefully slip a few leaves in and fry until they're crisped on both sides, about three minutes. Transfer them to a baking sheet and repeat with the others. Bake 10 minutes in the 275° oven, then cool to room temperature.