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Gemista or yemista is the Greek name for stuffed tomatoes and peppers. It actually means “filled vegetables”. The good news is that you are free to choose the vegetables and the ingredients you prefer for the filling. The rather bad news is that it takes a good 20 minutes just to prepare the meal and it will make a mess in the kitchen too. But it’s totally worth it.
Gemista falls under the category of “ladera”. That’s dishes made with olive oil (“ladi” is olive oil in Greek). So make sure to use olive oil. This is mainly a summery dish. That’s because the vegetables, which are used, grow in the summer. But since nowadays we can find all kinds of vegetables all year round, it is easy to find everything you need and treat your loved ones with one of the most delicious meals ever whether it’s summer or winter.
1 pound mincemeat (beef or pork or mixed)
Approximately ½ cup of rice
Fresh parsley chopped
Fresh mint chopped (optional)
1 tsp sugar
1-2 chopped onions (depending on size)
2 tbsps tomato puree
Wash the vegetables and slice off their top. Remove the seeds and white parts from the peppers. With a spoon, remove the pulp of the tomatoes but keep it in a bowl.
Place the vegetables on a baking tray.
Put the tomato puree along with the pulp of fresh tomatoes in the multi. Add some salt, pepper, and the sugar. Blend them.
In a saucepan, add some olive oil and saute the onion. A couple of minutes later, add the mincemeat along with some water. Stir until the mincemeat is brownish. Add a little bit of the tomato blend from your multi. Stir and add the rice. Stir and turn off the stove. Your mixture should be juicy with no excessive liquid.
Now it’s time to stuff the tomatoes and peppers, which are waiting on the baking tray. Use a tablespoon for that but don’t fill them entirely. Don’t forget that the rice will (nearly) double when properly cooked. So leave some space.
Peel and cut the potatoes. Place the pieces in between the stuffed tomatoes and peppers.
Use the remaining blend of fresh tomatoes and puree to pour over your stuffed vegetables and potatoes. Then pour some olive oil in the tray and over the vegetables. There should be enough liquid in the tray to cover the vegetable bodies half way up. If not, add some water. Season with salt and pepper.
Cover the tray with aluminum foil and bake in the preheated oven at about 180 degrees. It takes about 1 ½ hours to cook. You should check there is enough juice in the tray every 30-40 minutes. About half an hour before they are done, remove the aluminum foil to let the vegetable lids get crispy. 15 minutes later, add the breadcrumbs.
Useful tips for the best results
- You can use as many vegetables as you like but always make sure there is enough space in the baking tray. If you use more than 12-14 vegetables, increase the quantity of mincemeat and rice (just a tad).
- When you slice off the top of the vegetables, try not to slice them entirely. You want the lid connected to the body of the vegetable for your convenience.
- Use a fork to open a few holes at the bottom of the vegetables before you fill them. This will keep the stuffed vegetables juicy since they will absorb the liquid found in the tray.
- Always make sure there is enough liquid in the tray when the food is cooked. So add periodically some water, or tomato juice, or even olive oil (you don’t want the food watery) while it is baking. But don’t overdo it. You don’t want the baked vegetables ‘swimming’ in liquids. Just enough to keep them juicy and allow you to enjoy the meal with fresh bread.
- According to the original recipe, this dish is made with rice appropriate for soup. We recommend another type so that it won’t become entirely mushy.
- We suggest pouring enough tomato juice in the tray before you bake the dish to keep it succulent. So if the tomatoes you use do not make enough juice, make some more.
- We provide an estimate for the baking time required but don’t forget that each oven is different. Always give the vegetables a few extra minutes to bake to get crispy on the top. They become far tastier.
- The use of breadcrumbs is optional. But when baked (and slightly burnt), they make your food crunchier.
- It takes a while to prepare this meal. But worry not. It’s a matter of getting used to it. To help you, we suggest gathering everything you need on the kitchen counter and then get started. If you are organized, it will be easy. And don’t abandon the idea of preparing this dish. It’s not as difficult as it sounds. On top of that, it will feed many mouths or remain in the fridge for a while. In the summer, you don’t even have to heat it up. If you prefer it warm, put it in the oven at medium temps for half an hour or in the microwave.
You will simply love it! It tastes good and is colorful. The best combination for family dinners. Don’t forget to get fresh bread. And it pairs with feta cheese. Bun appetit or ‘kali orexi’ as we say in Greek.