Greek stuffed tomatoes (gemista)

Greek stuffed tomatoes (gemista)

My taste of summer


This is a classic summer dish from Greece: stuffed tomatoes (gemistes domates) - or more generally, gemista, stuffed summer veggies (a mix of tomatoes and peppers).

To me, this dish really encapsulates the taste of summer - a taste memory build over a whole life of Greek summers (I only ever missed a handful in 33 years of living abroad).

It's not a dish you'll easily find in a fancy restaurant (even less so in a Greek restaurant abroad) but a staple in homes up and down the country and in many simple tavernas too.

A humble dish of simple ingredients: summer vegetables (big fleshy tomatoes, and often bell peppers too), and a few cupboard items: rice, herbs, garlic, potatoes, this is a beautiful veggie dish.

It's best eaten at room temperature (and even better the next day) so it's perfect to make ahead for a lazy summer lunch. Feta cheese on the side is a 'must' in my head.

To me this definitely tastes best made by my mum and eaten in the shade of our island veranda.

But I love making it myself whenever I can get hold of big fleshy summer tomatoes (not that easy in Wales!)

Carving out the tomatoes before stuffing them (with that same tomato, spiced up) takes a little bit of extra effort, but that really is all it takes, the rest comes together really easily.

Here's how:


You'll need:

  • big fleshy tomatoes (and bell peppers, if you like). Allow 1-2 per person, make extra if you can.
  • rice (any rice is OK but short grain rice is typically used and will 'melt' more into the tomato)
  • finely chopped onion & garlic
  • herbs (oregano, mint, parsley, dill, fennel all work well)
  • spices (allspice and cinnamon are often used, but coriander/cumin/fennel are good too)
  • optional: potatoes to fill the tray, to cook alongside the veggies soaking up the juices


How to:

  • cut a sturdy slice off the top of the tomatoes and/or peppers and set aside (these will be your 'lids')
  • carefully carve out the middle part of the tomatoes with a spoon
  • reserve these cores and any juice
  • remove the seedy core of the peppers if using
  • finely chop the tomato cores
  • finely chop a small onion and some garlic and soften in olive oil
  • mix in the rice and chopped tomato cores/juice
  • add plenty herbs, spices, and any other ingredients and season well
  • cook the mix for a couple of minutes
  • place the shells on a deep baking tray
  • fill the shells with the mixture (do not stuff it in as the rice will expand), and drizzle with plenty olive oil
  • fill the remaining space on the tray with chopped potatoes, season well with salt and pepper/herbs
  • cover the shells with the lids and drizzle more olive oil all over the tray
  • add just a little splash of water so nothing burns on the bottom of the tray until the tomato juice starts releasing (which will add extra liquid anyway)

Bake in the oven until the potatoes soften and the edges of the veggie shells start charring here an there. The rice should have cooked in that time too but make sure to check.

Serve with some of the potatoes on the side, some of the tray juices, and plenty of feta cheese!


Extra tips:

  • Estimate the amount of rice you need depending of the size of you tomatoes. Rice expands about 3x with cooking so you probably need about a table spoon of rice per tomato (unless they are quite small)
  • Mix 1 part rice with 2 parts chopped tomato/juice to give it enough liquid to soak up
  • If using brown rice (that needs longer to cook) cook it in the tomato mix a few minutes longer before filling the shells.


Variations:

  • stuff a mix of tomatoes and bell peppers (any colour)
  • try a Middle Eastern edge with added pine nuts and/or raisins
  • or a meaty (and low carb) version with minced meat added to or replacing the rice

Categories: COOK, EAT

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