Plastic Wrap Will Help You Roll Up Picture-Perfect Grape Leaves

Stuffed grape leaves can make a beautiful addition to appetizer menus or the unique ors d'oeuvres spread you have planned. But if you're not buying canned dolmas and are instead setting out to make your own wrapped pieces at home, know that the aesthetic dish can take some time to put together — if you're lacking the proper tips, that is. So, if you zoned out when your (or someone's) Yia Yia tried to impart her grape-leaves rolling techniques, we have an easy hack to help make assembly easier — just reach for a knife and some plastic wrap. 

To achieve cylindrical perfection  — but also to help keep your workspace tidy — place the grape leaf onto a non-cling plastic wrap and add a spoonful of the seasoned stuffing of rice, meat, vegetables, or fish. Then fold three sides of the leaf around the mixture — leaving open the side facing you — and cover the dolma completely with one half of the plastic sheet. At this point, you want to press the sharp side of the knife down, hold the filling tight inside the leaf, and create a pivot point for rolling (not unlike the way maki sushi rolls are formed). When everything feels taut, pull the topside of the wrap toward you, with the pressure from the knife applied. If all goes well, when you've run out of plastic to pull, you should have a neat dolma, ready for the pile.

Practice makes for pretty presentations

The process of rolling up grape leaves inside of plastic wrap may take a few times to get right, as a steady hand is required to simultaneously hold the knife and yank the plastic to create the proper action for the leaf to roll up. But it's a trick that will become easier with practice, and soon you'll find yourself lining up perfectly rolled grape leaves as if you grew up in the Mediterranean making these snacks since childhood. One tip to be mindful of: If you're using brine-soaked grape leaves, you only need to drain and rinse the leaves before setting them onto the plastic. For drier leaves that aren't as malleable, a drizzle of olive oil can help create a slicker surface for the leaves to glide inside. 

When plated with olives, toasted bread, and crumbles of feta cheese, photos of your dish could be worthy of an Instagram update, and you may decide to make stuffed grape leaves to bring to the next office party.