I didn’t know there was a term for one of my favorite dishes. Olivetomato.com defines gemista as “vegetables, usually tomatoes, bell peppers, zucchini and eggplant filled with rice (sometimes with ground meat) and baked in the oven.” The actual translation is “ones that are filled.”
People, it’s summer. That means we have all the things that can be stuffed. Get off your tuchus right now and find a farmers’ market near you to buy these locally grown gems and make gemista. I adore stuffed bell peppers, but I’m finding that I can stuff other vegetables. If you need me, I’ll be knee-deep in olive oil.
For this week’s recipe, we have Benton’s own Cindy Posey as our photo contributor. She made this dish last week, and I stalked her Facebook page and her husband’s until I got the attention I needed: the recipe.
The Best Authentic Greek Stuffed Tomatoes and Peppers – Gemista
- 5 large tomatoes and 5 large green bell peppers
- 10-12 tablespoons uncooked short grain rice (do not use long grain)
- 8 zucchini
- 1 onion
- 2 pounds potatoes
- 7 garlic cloves
- 1 tablespoon oregano
- 2 tablespoons dry mint
- 4 tablespoons fresh parsley
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- Allspice – whole
- 1 1/2 cup olive oil
- Lemon juice
- Preheat oven at 400.
- Wash the tomatoes and peppers. For the peppers, cut around the stem and empty the inside of the pepper. For the tomatoes, cut around the base (the bottom part) not the stem part and empty the tomato with a spoon. Put these pieces of tomato in a separate bowl along with the juices. Make tiny slits on the inside bottom of the peppers and tomatoes (not all the way through)
- Place the empty tomatoes and peppers along with their caps in a large pan about 3 inches deep.
- Take 2-3 zucchini, peel them and grate them, put the grated zucchini in another bowl.
- In a food processor, add an onion, 4-5 garlic cloves, a bit of oil about a teaspoon and some salt. Mix but not too much (you don’t want a paste). Add the onion mixture to the zucchini.
- Take a small green bell pepper and also dice it and add to the zucchini mixture.
- Finally take a small potato (a bit larger than an egg) and grate it and add to the zucchini mixture.
- Now strain the juice from the tomatoes (squeeze the tomato with your hands too) and save in a separate bowl. Now you should have 3 bowls: one with tomato, one with zucchini-potato-onion mixture and one with tomato juice.Cut the tomato into small pieces and mix it with the zucchini mixture. Add 1 tablespoon salt, dry mint, parsley and tomato paste. Now add to the mixture 10 to 12 tablespoons short grain rice and 1 teaspoon lemon juice. Finally add ¾ cup olive oil. Let the mixture sit.
- Now start cutting the potatoes. Take 2 lbs. of potatoes, peel them and cut them into quarters, place in a bowl. Take 3-4 zucchini, peel and slice and add to potatoes. Add ¾ cup olive oil, 1 tablespoon oregano, some salt and 2 cloves garlic cut in small pieces. Mix well (with your hands preferably). Then add the tomato juice which you had saved from the tomatoes in step 8.
- Now start filling the tomatoes and peppers with rice all the way to the top and close with their caps.
- Add the potatoes to the pan, making sure to place around the tomatoes and peppers so they don’t slide in the tray. If there is any rice mixture left mix it with the quartered potatoes and add to the pan.
- Add 5 cloves to the potatoes and about 5 allspice.
- Add about a cup of water, but not on top-you don’t want to “wash off” the oil. Add the water in a corner of the pan and tilt slightly so the water goes everywhere.
- Bake in the oven for about 15-20 minutes at 400. Then reduce to 320-340 and bake for another 1-½ hours. If you notice it getting dry, add a bit more water.
- To see if it is done, check the rice. It should be soft and mushy.
Recipe adapted from www.olivetomato.com
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