Gemista (Stuffed Vegetables)

Gemista is a great dish to have during the summer, the tomatoes and peppers are excellent during this season. This is one of the first few Greek dishes that I mastered cooking – it isn’t as time-consuming as moussaka, and when I do make it, I make a lot so that it will last us for 2-3 days. Gemista is one of those dishes that taste better the next day, like curries and stews.

This is George’s grandmothers’ recipe. I do know that some people add minced meat, some add mint and there are lots of variations, and mine is most certainly not the ‘authentic’ one. Kalliope is a great cook, and she knows how to get the best flavours out of simple ingredients. This is great for vegetarians and vegans too! What differs here is my use of rice. I find that basmati rice makes it a more drier and fragrant stuffing. I have used wild rice mixed with basmati, and even brown rice (although this would require a bit more water than usual, or not it’ll be too ‘dry and uncooked’ even for me). But use what you feel comfortable cooking, and what suits your palate.

Ingredients: (For 6 hungry people)

For the Rice Stuffing (don’t worry, there will be leftovers*)
1 cup of rice
1/3 cup of olive oil
3 medium onions, diced
1 1/2 cups of chopped tomatoes (*see below)
100g of parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste
A pinch  of oregano

The vegetables:
Enough peppers, tomatoes, aubergines and potatoes to fit a baking pan. Like so. The peppers were rather small here…

Prepare the vegetables like this:

Cut the tops off, and with a spoon, scoop out the tomato flesh and seeds. Reserve it, even the juices. Chop it, and you can use it for the rice stuffing. For the peppers, cut the tops off and remove the seeds. For the aubergines, chop it like above and scoop the flesh out. You can keep the leftovers, flesh and seeds for ratatouille. (I kept mine to make an aubergine omelette for breakfast the next day) Make a cap with the leftover aubergines.

1/2 to 1 cup of olive oil (according to preference.)
Some water
Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

  1. Prepare the vegetables. Arrange it in the baking pan, and arrange the potatoes around the vegetables.
  2. Now to prepare the stuffing. In a pot, heat up the olive oil. Add the onions and sauté. Once translucent, add the rice and coat the rice in the oil. Add the tomatoes and parsley, and stir continuously. Season with salt and pepper, and then add the oregano. Once the liquid has been absorbed, remove from heat, and let cool.
  3. Preheat oven to 180c (with fan. If not, 200c)
  4. Scatter salt and pepper all over the vegetables, especially the potatoes. Stuff the vegetables with the rice, up to the middle-mark.
  5. For the aubergines, add 2 tbsp of water in with the rice. For the peppers, 1 tbsp would do. None for the tomatoes.
  6. Cover the vegetables with their caps. Scatter more salt and pepper on top, Jamie Oliver style. Now slowly and gently pour the cup olive oil around onto the vegetables and the potatoes.
  7. With a teaspoon, add water in small amounts onto the potatoes to help them cook, but not too much, mind you – we don’t want it to get soggy.
  8. Put it in the oven. Leave it in there for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Check to make sure the tops haven’t burned.
  9. Also, check to see if the potatoes have cooked. Insert a knife and if its soft, means its ok. Lift one of the vegetables to see if the rice is cooked inside. If not, return to the oven for another 20-30 minutes.
  10. Serve! I usually have a side serving of feta sprinkled with a little oregano and olive oil.
*What to do with the leftover rice? Just add water until it barely covers the rice, and continue cooking it on the hob. Once the water has dried up and you can see that there are ‘sinkholes’ scattered around the surface of the rice, take it off the heat. Cover, and let it steam for 10 minutes. Eh voilà, tomato rice that you can serve as a side dish.
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