Gemista (pronounced as ye-mi-STA), are stuffed tomatoes and peppers with rice cooked in tomato sauce. Between the gaps of the vegetables we add potatoes which absorb all the wonderful flavours of the vegetables. As potatoes need more time to bake, we must cut them into thin wedges about twice the size of potato chips.
Gemista are one of my favourite vegan dishes as it is a combination of so many tastes and aromas. Vegetables (green bell peppers or even eggplants), Greek extra virgin olive oil, rice, potatoes, herbs like parsley and mint, as well as kafkalithres (Tordylium Apulum) – Mediterranean hartwort and myronia – (scandix pecten veneris) chevril, as well as spring onions, are mingled in our palate.
Gemista, means “filled” or “stuffed” and the filling can be a meat based one, usually with minced pork or beef but the vegan dish, with only rice and herbs, is more popular.
This is a summer dish falls under the category ladera or “oily” food, since it is an olive oil based dish. This is a perfect summer dish as the tomatoes are ripe and as they are a light food they can be consumed during hot Mediterranean temperatures, as a slightly hot or cold dish.
I really don’t mind baking during summer and if it’s unbearably hot, I prepare them in the evening and bake them early in the morning or just have the air-conditioning on.
Adding raisins in the rice is something I love as it gives a hint of sweetness to the rice. My newest addition are goji berries (Lycium Chinese), making the dish even healthier.
Although there are tomatoes year round now with the green houses, I seldom make them during winter, except maybe during Lent when we need to eat a variety of vegan dishes.
I like adding potato wedges between the gaps, but make sure that the potatoes are very thin, otherwise it will take more time to cook them than is necessary to cook the “gemista”. If you want your wedges thicker, you can cover the baking tin with aluminium foil and cook for one hour. Then remove the foil and cook until the potatoes are roasted.
They absorb so much flavour from the tomatoes which makes them irresistible.
The flavour of good quality Greek extra virgin olive oil and all the sweet juices from the fresh ripe tomatoes and raisins and mixed to make a delicious sauce which should be mopped off the plate with fresh hot bread 🙂 Unfortunately, as I am on aa diet, this is something I now have to avoid but everything in moderation is allowed!
Gemista (stuffed tomatoes and peppers)
(Traditional Greek Recipe)
Preparation time: 1 hour
Baking time: 1 hour and 15 minutes
- 6 large tomatoes and 6 bell peppers
- ½ cup of olive oil
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
- 350 grams non aromatic, starchy Carolina rice, similar to arborio (or 2 heaped tbsp for each gemisto (stuffed)
- 1 cup white dry wine (about 200 ml)
- 1 organic vegetable bouillon
- 1 tbsp salt
- Freshly grated black pepper
- 3 tbsp dried mint
- 2 tbsp raisins (or goji berries)
- 3 cups of tomato pulp, puréed
- ½ cup parsley, finely copped
- 1 ½ cups olive oil
- 4 medium potatoes cut into thin wedges (about 8 pieces)
- Salt, pepper, oregano
- ½ cup of water if necessary (only if potatoes are added)
- Wash the tomatoes and peppers. Cut a horizontal slice off the top or bottom side of the tomato. Use a knife to cut off the larger chunks of their flesh and finish by using a teaspoon to scoop out the tomato flesh. Put it in a food processor and then purée.
- Cut the top or side of the green peppers (depending on their shape), empty the seeds and remove any veins.
- Put the tomatoes and peppers in a large baking pan and season the interior with salt.
- Heat the olive oil in a non-stick frying pan and sauté the onions until translucent. Add the garlic and sauté it for a few seconds. Add the rice and mix until it is wet. Add the wine and cook for a few minutes until the alcohol evaporates.
- Crush the bouillon with your fingers and add it to the rice, together with the mint, raisins, salt, pepper and oregano and mix. Add the puréed tomato and simmer for five minutes or until the fluid is absorbed. Mix in the parsley and set aside to cool.
- Fill the tomatoes and peppers with this mixture, but make sure not to over-stuff them, as the rice will expand while cooking and will break your veggies. Cover with the lids and sprinkle with the remaining olive oil and the remaining blended tomatoes (do not add water).
- If you want to add potatoes on the side, cut them into small wedges and season with salt, pepper and some oregano.
- Preheat the oven to 180o C and bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Half way through, mix the potatoes and baste the vegetables at least once, in order to keep them moist on the top. Bake until the potatoes are roasted and soft. (If the potatoes stick to the baking pan, add some water, turn off the oven and wait for ten minutes before serving).
I am sending this recipe to Yasmeen of Health Nut, for her event Well Balanced 3 Course Meals. I have already posted the starter, Fetatziki and the Apricot Meringue Dessert. In this picture the dessert is mpezes (meringue) with yoghurt mixed with whipping cream and Cherry Spoon Sweet.
You can find more “nistisimes syntages” (Lenten Recipes), most of them are vegan, here.
You can find many more Greek recipes in my cookbook “More Than A Greek Salad”, and “Mint, Cinnamon & Blossom Water, Flavours of Cyprus, Kopiaste!” both available on all Amazon stores.
Other relevant recipes:
Kopiaste and Kali Orexi,