This is a traditional recipe for stuffed vegetables. Mostly a summer dish, this gemista is healthy, vegan, gluten-free, and low in fat.
If you know me, then you know I am a man of my word. If you scroll down a few posts, you’ll see that at my everything grains stuffed vegetables post, I promised you the real traditional recipe for Greek stuffed vegetables. This recipe is one of the most famous recipes in my country, and one of the most loved ones. But as it often happens with food-related matters, there’s a bit of controversy surrounding it! There are people who prefer the stuffing with some minced meat (usually beef) and others who prefer it without. Things, of course, are not as serious as the conflict between the almond snow cookies and the honey cookies (honeyroons) which takes place during Christmas – I talk about this conflict in one of these two posts, I think – but it can get pretty ugly at times (just kidding!). This recipe is the one without meat, so it goes without saying that I will also be posting the meat version some time in the future 🙂
This dish requires some skill and a bit of time just because you have to empty the vegetables. I know what you’re thinking… Why not use only peppers and save yourself all the trouble? Well… you can, but I think that all the magic happens inside the pan while baking, when all the flavors from the different vegetables get mixed, so ultimately everything tastes a lot better! My rule is to use equal numbers of sweet peppers and tomatoes, and one or two eggplants or zucchinis. Try to pick large vegetables, all of them being about the same size so that everything bakes at the same time and you can portion each serving better.
Greek stuffed vegetables are not just vegetables stuffed with rice. This would not be interesting at all! The traditional recipe uses a lot of green herbs, spices, the juice from the tomatoes, and the flesh from the emptied vegetables to create a very flavorful, fresh and light dish. In most cases, though not by everybody, some raisins and roasted pine nuts are also used. If you have some, use them since they add extra depth and richness to the dish.
- Choose vegetables of the same size approximately.
- Be careful when emptying the vegetables. You don’t want to break the exterior.
- Some people also use dill besides parsley and spearmint. I don’t, but if you think you’ll like it you can certainly add a small bunch to the filling.
- The general rule when making stuffed vegetables is to use about 2 tablespoons rice for every vegetable.
- Fill the gaps between the vegetables with potato wedges. Not only you’ll have some baked potatoes as a side, but they will also help the vegetables not to lose their shape during baking.
- For better presentation try not to mix the lids of the vegetables
- Choose a pan that perfectly fits the vegetables.
- Gemista is always served with some feta cheese on the side!
- If you don't stuff any eggplants, grate a small one and use it in the filling!
Meatless Greek Stuffed Vegetables (Gemista)
- 10 large vegetables (4 tomatoes, 3 sweet green peppers, 2 sweet red peppers, 1 eggplant)
- ¼ cup olive oil
- ¼ cup cup raisins, roughly chopped
- ¼ cup up roasted pine nuts
- 2 onions, chopped
- 1 carrot, grated
- ½ cup dry white wine or vegetable broth
- ½ cup water
- 1 cup chopped parsley
- 2 tablespoons dried spearmint or mint (or 4 tablespoons fresh)
- 2-3 teaspoons fine salt or to taste
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- Freshly grated pepper to taste
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 20 tablespoons (2 per vegetable) long grain rice
- Extra olive oil for the pan (about ¼ to ½ cup)
- About two potatoes cut in small wedges
- Prepare the vegetables: After choosing your vegetables, find a pan that perfectly fits them. For the vegetables in the pictures, I used a 12 inch in diameter round pan. Rinse all the vegetables, cut off a slice from the top and empty them out using a small spoon or a melon baller. Keep in mind which lid goes to which vegetable.
- Finely chop or process in a food processor the insides from the peppers (the white stuff without the seeds), the inside of the eggplant, the carrot, and the onions and reserve into a bowl. Process the insides of the tomatoes and reserve into another bowl.
- Make the filling: Put the olive oil in a large pan and heat over medium/high heat. Add the onions, carrot, eggplant and pepper flesh and cook until soft, about 5-10 minutes. Add the rice, the wine, and the water and cook until almost all the liquids are absorbed. Turn off the heat and add the pureed tomatoes, the raisins, the pine nuts,the parsley, the mint, salt and pepper to taste, the cumin, and the sugar. Stir to combine.
- Preheat your oven to 410°F (210°C).
- Make the Gemista: Fill the vegetables with the filling, leaving one inch from the top, because the rice is going to puff up. Cover with the lids, fill the gaps with the potato wedges, and fill the pan with water, about 1 inch high. Drizzle with some extra olive oil and sprinkle some more salt over the potatoes.
- Bake: Bake for 1 hour 15 minutes. Cover with foil if you notice that the vegetables brown too much on the top. Let them rest for 20 minutes and serve with feta cheese.
Gemista are best served warm or at room temperature. Feta cheese is always on the side!
Since this recipe requires some effort, I usually make enough servings for at least 2 days
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