As far as I'm concerned, nothing says "party" like a platter of dolmas (stuffed grape leaves). And since we were indeed having a party, I knew what I had to make.
I first started making these years ago when we had actual grape vines of our own. Home-grown leaves are definitely best, in my opinion, as you can pick the shape you want and brining is unnecessary. But since I have yet to get any grapes planted it was off to my favorite local Balkan/Slavic/Middle Eastern deli where I was able to get pre-mixed henna in a tube along with my grape leaves. All this and "helpful and knowledgeable stuff"!
When I've had to buy leaves, they've always been wadded up in jars so when I saw the definitely not eco-friendly vacuum-packed plastic bags I thought I'd come across something so brilliant that I'd forgo recyclable glass. Since the leaves were packed flat, I reasoned, surely they'd be intact, less ripped and mangled than the jarred variety. Of course I was dead wrong. Most of the leaves were too small to use, and others were ripped to shreds. Nearly all were so deeply notched that I actually had to double roll many of the dolmas just to hold the filling. And they were so salty, even despite repeated careful rinsing. As you can imagine, I was in a fine mood after spending an hour an half fighting with the cursed things. But none of this mattered the next day when I arranged them on a sunny yellow platter and waited for guests to arrive. They quickly disappeared into the mouths of hungry revelers who kept asking where I'd bought them. I just smiled ever so humbly when I confessed that I'd made them myself.
Many folks use meat in the filling, but mine have a simple lemon-herb-rice filling. Call up a friend or two to make light work of it an roll up a batch of your own tasty dolmas. The recipe is here.