Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Dolmas or Yalanchi, Memories of My Dad
I look forward to the Food section of the LA Times every week. I'm always inspired to make something new and when I saw an article about Armenian/Mexican cuisine I got tears in my eyes. Instantly, I thought of my dad and the times he spent in the kitchen patiently wrapping grape leaf bundles filled with rice. In the article, these are called yalanchi but in my family we called them dolmas.
I hadn't thought about dolmas in years and it was one of the few dishes I can remember my dad making. He was more the grill master than kitchen chef. He passed away when I was junior high and I must admit I can't recall the taste of the dolmas he made. Probably because at that age I refused to eat anything that I perceived as odd. Ask me how his rice pilaf tasted and I can bring that flavor up immediately which will have me racing to the kitchen to saute noodles and rice in way too much butter. Even though I couldn't remember tasting or liking dolmas, the article made me want to make them; if only to have a moment in the kitchen honoring my dad and in my own way connecting with him.
The process is simple but time-consuming so you'll want to block out a couple hours to complete the dish. It can be served at room temperature so it's great to make it ahead which is what I did for a BBQ. I spent most of the prep and cooking thinking of my dad and his family. He came from a large Armenian family that I don't see very often but I have good memories of. Most memories involve the food that we ate and the time spent together during the holidays. My grandmother made the best buttered toast, which seems incidental, but I'll never forget it. I also have them to thank for my plump and perky derriere (and thank you to Kim Kardshian for making it attractive in the media).
I was happy to share the dolmas with my friends and family. Especially with my sister, as she's older and can recall more about my dad's cooking than me. It was a nice meal spent with people I love.
If you're interested in the article and recipe, it's called Marrying Mexican and Armenian Cuisine by Lorenza Munoz.