Andy's Fruit Ranch on a whim, thinking how tough can it be? Dolma are basically little rice leaf burritos, right? I can do that.
Andy's usually has a bunch of great weird vegetables, but things were pretty dry this trip. They had some cool looking little avocados and some fennel, and I remember reading a thing about female fennel plants having more flavor, and decided I was going to find me a female fennel. You identify the female plant by the shape of the bulb, round and voluptuous is female, longer and more cylindrical is male. I poked through all their fennel and finally found one with a big can on it. I named her Latifa and brought her home.
Classic dolma are stuffed with par-boiled dill rice and finished in stock, but I wanted to bang these out in a hurry, so they could be eaten right away. I sweated some chopped apples and onions, then added the rice and water along with a bay leaf. While the rice was cooking I prepared the other stuff for the middle of the dolma. I sliced the fennel into thin crescents and cut the flesh of the avocado into slices. The little avocado was really cool. The flesh was a uniform ochre color, the seed was small and hard, and the skin was almost like a piece of tupperware. I just had to flex the halved avocado a little and all the flesh popped out in a single kernel.
When the rice was done, chopped a couple of scallions and a mess of mint and stirred it into the rice and made the dolma. Turns out it's totally easy. The grape leaves have a little stem, which may be edible, I don't know, but it definitely interferes with rolling, so I nipped it off. I made each package with a slice of avocado, a couple slices of fennel and a blop of rice, just rolled up like a burrito.
I made a dipping sauce because fuck it, why not. Grated some ginger, chopped some garlic, stirred it into some mustard, tamari soy, siracha and sesame oil. Boom, great sauce. I know it isn't culturally correct, but it's tasty as hell. Chuck got me a ceramic ginger grater a few years ago, and I feel like an idiot not using it until recently. Regular graters, even microplanes, gag on the fibers of ginger. The little ceramic guy is fantastic, makes a great puree of the ginger and leaves the fibers still attached to the root. Super great tool.
Some of the leaves have tough fibers, but you can't tell by looking, you just need to fish them out of your mouth. Otherwise, Dolma are really easy. (v)