Monday, September 28, 2009

Gemista (stuffed tomatoes)

Gemista, means “filled” or “stuffed” vegetables such as, peppers, eggplants, courgettes, onions etc. The filling can be a meat based one, usually with minced beef and rice but I sometimes prefer to make them vegetarian (or some of them) as I cook meat but I don’t eat it.

Gemista fall under the category ladera or “oily” food, as we call them but my version is a much lighter one, using not too much oil and are mostly “saucy” than “ladera”. The normal amount of oil used would be at least twice the quantity I use.
Gemista is a summer food, since it is the time when 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. 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 vegetarian dishes or whenever the girls ask for them.
Sometimes, I add thin slices of potatoes in between the gaps but as potatoes usually take more time to cook, I end up by over baking them, so now I prefer to half bake the potatoes separately in parchment paper, adding the same seasoning, and then add them to cook together or cut them in small cubes from the very beginning.
Gemista are one of my favourite dishes as it is a combination of so many tastes and aromas. Vegetables, oil, rice, potatoes, parsley and mint are mingled in our palate and all the sweet juices from the fresh ripe tomatoes should be mopped off the plate with fresh hot bread.

Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Serves: 4 - 5


· 9 large, ripe, tomatoes
· 1 large red onion finely cut
· 1 – 2 Cloves garlic, finely chopped
· 1/3 cup top quality extra virgin olive oil
· 3 green bell peppers
· 150 grams short-grained rice (Carolina)
· 1 cup finely chopped parsley
· 2 tbsp dried Greek Mint or fresh if available
· salt and freshly ground black pepper
· 2 large Potatoes (optional), cut into thin wedges, seasoned with salt, pepper and dried oregano


Wash tomatoes and cut a horizontal slice off the bottom side of the tomato (not where the stem is) but do not cut entirely.
With a teaspoon, scoop out the contents of the tomato into a food processor and then blend them.
Wash the green bell peppers and cut horizontal the top side where the stem is entirely and cut out the seeds.
Put the tomatoes and peppers in a baking dish and sprinkle some salt inside their cavities.
Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a non stick sautéing pan and sauté the onions and garlic until translucent then add the rice and mix.
Season with salt and pepper.
Add the blended tomatoes, lower heat and mix for five minutes stirring occasionally.
Add the parsley and mint, mix in and remove from the heat.
Fill in the tomatoes and peppers by ¾ full, leaving room for the uncooked rice to expand. Cover the tomatoes and the peppers with the lids.
Add the potatoes, the remaining olive oil and some tomatoe juice. (No water should be added)
Preheat oven at 180 degrees C.
Bake for about 1 hour thirty minutes. Baste the vegetables at least twice, in order to keep them moist on the top or cover with a silver foil and have it removed after the first hour.
In case no potatoes are used the baking time is less.

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