This and more of his family's recipes can be found on his comprehensive Armenian and international food and cultural website, The Gutsy Gourmet.
In Armenian and Middle Eastern cultures and cuisines, dolma refers to a family of stuffed vegetable dishes, most often wrapped in grape or cabbage leaves.
You can use the same meat and rice filling to hollow out and stuff zucchini squash, eggplant, tomatoes, onions, and bell peppers. “If there’s anything Armenians love to stuff it is fresh vegetables. Armenians will stuff just about any part of a lamb, from stomach to head. And we even stuff meat with meat like kuftah,” Baxter said.
“Dolma is considered the most cherished Armenian dish because it is part of our rich Armenian culture, and because Armenians love dishes made of chopped meat and all possible variations of stuffed fresh vegetables,” he added.
Dr. Baxter’s website is dedicated to his beloved mother, Gladys Baxter, who was born in Fresno on July 1, 1908. She descended from Armenian immigrants from the Bitlis area of Turkey. “My mother was the youngest of eight children, and had five older sisters who were excellent cooks, too, as was her mother. She naturally learned from them and became one of the most respected Armenian cooks in the San Joaquin Valley. She had no difficulty in cooking for two or two hundred people. She seldom consulted a cookbook and measuring devices were rarely used in her cooking. A pinch of this and a scoop of that was all that was needed to perform magic in her kitchen.”
In 1930, Gladys married Avedis Baxter, an auto mechanic from Fowler, Calif. They had two sons to whom she taught her culinary and domestic skills. Ironically, she spent her last few years with Alzheimer’s disease that caused her to forget her amazing art and skills in Armenian cooking. Dr. Baxter added, “I felt it incumbent upon me to celebrate my mother’s deep love of cooking by sharing many of her traditional Armenian specialties such as this dolma recipe.”
|Buzz Baxter's Armenian Mixed Vegetable Dolma|
Serves 6 to 8
Assorted fresh vegetables suitable for stuffing: any color bell peppers, cucumbers, zucchini, tomatoes, potatoes, onions, apples, quince, small eggplant, grape leaves, cabbage leaves.
3/4 cup rice or fine bulgur, or a combination
1 1/2 lbs. ground lamb or ground round or 3/4 lb. each ground lamb and lean ground top round
3/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1/2 medium green bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
Cayenne pepper or paprika to taste
1 teaspoon each dried basil and dried mint
1 teaspoon each salt and black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
8 oz. crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce
2 cups water or 2 cans chicken broth or beef broth, or enough to cover the vegetables
Wash and prepare the vegetables of your choice. (See list above.)
Scoop out vegetables leaving an opening for the filling about 1 1/2-2 inches in diameter and 2-3 inches deep. (Note: Scooped out portions of vegetables may be grated or processed, and added to the broth to make it thicker, or it can be used in another dish, such as a vegetable soup base.)
In a bowl, combine the rice or bulgur, lamb or ground round, parsley, bell pepper, garlic, tomato paste, onions, and spices. Add lemon juice and mix all ingredients to combine; check seasonings. Fill vegetables with some filling mixture and place upright in a large pot, Dutch oven, or covered casserole.
Pour crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce over the stuffed vegetables along with water or broth. Add more liquid, if needed, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and cook for 45-60 minutes, until vegetables, rice or bulgur are tender.
Allow dolma to rest for 20-30 minutes. Transfer to a platter and season lightly with salt and pepper. Spoon remaining sauce over dolma, and serve with rice, lentil or bulgur pilaf, Armenian yogurt, and fresh pita bread or lavash.