Summer’s here at last! The tomatoes are ripe and sweet, and there are ample quantities of fresh spearmint in my garden. For the Greeks, these are the perfect excuses to make Gemista (stuffed vegetables with rice) more often than any other time of year. The below recipe will show you step-by-step with my pictures, how to make this delicious traditional Greek meal.
INGREDIENTS (serves 4-6)
6 beef tomatoes
6 green peppers
2 medium onions
2 medium cloves of garlic
Fresh spearmint and parsley
1 cup of rice for risotto (In Greece, we use the ‘Carolina’ variety for Gemista). Note: The rice goes in raw.
Extra virgin olive oil
Wash the vegetables. Cut off their tops with a knife and keep each top near each vegetable as you place them one by one in your roasting pan. Using the special utensil (see photo), remove the flesh of the tomatoes and place it in a bowl. For the peppers, cut off the stalks, throw away the protruding flesh inside and the seeds. If needed, run the peppers under a tap to clear the inside better.
Place the onion and garlic in a blender, add the parsley and the spearmint and mix well (don’t be shy! Use lots from both herbs). Add the tomato flesh from the bowl, mix well. Put the content of the blender back to the bowl.
(Note: Some housewives add dried oregano to the mix at this point. Feel free to try it, if you wish).
Take out 6-7 table spoonfuls of the mix and place them in another bowl for later (for the potatoes and the pan).
Back to the main bowl, add one tablespoon of rice for every vegetable. i.e. 10 table spoonfuls in this case.
Add salt and pepper.
Sprinkle a little sugar in the bottom of every tomato. NOT in the peppers.
Go round the roasting tin by putting one tablespoon of the rice mix into every vegetable. Go round again with another tablespoon a second time, then add where needed until the mix is finished. None of the vegetables will be full to the top and some may even be halfway full. That’s okay. The rice will absorb the liquid during cooking and will be nice and soft, filling the vegetables to the top. I like my tomatoes bursting full, so I tend to add more mix in the tomatoes than the peppers as you can see in the picture.
Place the tops on all the vegetables. Make sure they’re all upright.
Peel the potatoes, wash and cut them up in elongated pieces (see photos).
Place them in the bowl with the left over tomato mix. Add salt, pepper and mix.
Place the potatoes in the roasting pan. Use a spoon to put the remaining tomato mix from the bowl, a little on every vegetable.
Sprinkle olive oil all over the vegetables and potatoes, then add salt over the vegetables.
Do NOT add any water. It looks dry, granted, but that’s okay. The tomatoes will flood the pan with juices!
Bake in a preheated oven at 180 degrees C (medium heat) for one hour. I use the air and grill function on mine.
When it’s been in the oven for about 40 minutes, take it out to turn over the potatoes, then put it back in for the remaining 20 minutes.
Greeks enjoy this with feta cheese and bread, but my personal preference is to serve it with tzatziki and a green salad.
(For my yummy tzatziki recipe, go here)
Gemista is equally delicious served straight from the fridge with a cold beer on a hot summer’s day.
Enjoy! KALI OREXI!