Wrapping up a healthier Armenian dinner

Confession: We are not role models for healthy eating.

Healthy appetites? Definitely! But healthy eating, well…we’re working on it.

For one thing, we’re trying out healthier ways to make traditional Armenian food.

Turkey Dolma with Romaine lettuce

One simple way is to substitute lean, ground turkey for ground lamb or beef. (As much as we love lamb, we love our arteries even more.)

Consider that a pound of cooked, ground lamb has about 886 calories and 61.5 grams of fat. The same amount of ground turkey breast has about 640 calories and only 32 grams of fat. That’s a whopping difference!

(Be careful to look for lean ground turkey, not the stuff that include skin and God-knows what else.)

We decided to try making turkey dolma. The big question for us was whether half the taste would disappear along with half the fat?

Luckily, in our humble judgment, it tasted great.

We’ll eat just about any vegetable in this dish, but we happened to have a fresh batch of Romaine lettuce, one of our all-time favorites. It’s easier to prepare than coring eggplant or squash — you just simmer the leaves in water for a few minutes until soft — and it’s a wonderful substitute for grape leaves, which aren’t always handy.

And as lettuce goes, Romaine is a hands-down choice over iceburg, with lots more fiber, calcium, Vitamin C and lutein (one of those good things found in green, leafy vegetables).

Finally, to make us feel almost too healthy, we use bulgur in the stuffing rather than rice. We love it, but we’ll leave that up to you.

Why not give this a try and let us know what you think?

Turkey Dolma with Romaine lettuce

Ingredients:2 to 3 heads of Romaine lettuce
1 pound lean, ground turkey breast
1 16-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
1/2 cup #1 bulgur
1 lemon

Separate the lettuce leaves and simmer a few leaves at a time in a large pot with just enough lightly salted water to cover the leaves. Remove the leaves, pat them dry and set them aside.

Note: This is enough stuffing for about 2 dozen dolmas, but the yield depends on the size of the leaves. If you run short of lettuce, you can just roll the remaining stuffing into meatballs and cook them along with the wraps.

Save the water as a base for the sauce, adding the diced tomatoes and:
1/2 the can of tomato paste
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp pepper
the juice of 1/2 the lemon
Stir and keep on low heat while preparing the dolmas

The stuffing:
In a large mixing bowl, combine the turkey with the bulgur and throughly mix with the remaining tomato paste, the juice from the rest of the lemon and the same amounts of salt, pepper and allspice that went into the sauce. (Adjust any of them for your taste.)

Using a stable cutting board, trim the hard stems off the leaves. Place about a tablespoon in the center of each leaf (more or less depending on the size of the leaf) and roll as you would grape leaves — that is, tucking in the sides as you roll.

Place each wrap gently in the sauce. Add enough water to cover them. Then place a dish on top of the wraps and anchor the dish with a small pot of water or a heavy-enough object to keep the dolma from unwrapping as it cooks.

Simmer for about half an hour. Serve with cold yogurt.

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  1. Bonnie October 10, 2009 at 1:53 am

    I have never cooked romaine lettuce. Didn't realize you could! I can't wait to use them instead of expensive, hard-to-find grape leaves. This recipe sounds wonderful.


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