I first had this dish a decade ago one my first trip to Greece specifically in the town of Olympia. The birthplace of the Olympic Games. It was just a day trip on our way back to Athens. We stopped by a small tavern after the morning of sightseeing the ancient ruins. The tavern had a few tables some inside and mostly outside by the sidewalk, the menu was just a A4 sheet paper with a few items. We were hungry after a whole morning spent walking and taking in the rich history of the place. We literally ordered everything just to sample because everything sounded so good. One of the items we ate was Gemista.
Gemista is of course Greek stay stuffed veggies. The Gemista we ate was made with tomatoes, onions and, peppers. It was really delicious and I ate most of it. I came back home and had to recreate it, this is what I deduced it down to with the help of some google research of course.
Gemista Greek stuffed vegetables
3 onions medium sized purple or white colored
3 firm tomatoes, beefsteak or largish heirlooms
2 peppers, medium sized you can use any color bell peppers you like)
1 tablespoon olive oil, for sautéing vegetables
1/4 cup kalmata olive pitted and halved
2 tablespoons pickled capers
1/2 cup feta or crumbled firm tofu ( vegan option)
1/4 cup roasted almonds roughly chopped
1 carrot, diced
1 zucchini, diced
2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
2 dried figs chopped or a few raisins
300 grams brown rice or quinoa washed rinsed and soaked for 30 minutes
1 tablespoon tomato paste
300 ml water or vegetable broth
1 bunch parsley, finely chopped
1/3 bunch dill, finely chopped
1 sprig of Greek or wild oregano
1 small bunch fresh mint, finely chopped
extra virgin olive oil to drizzle
Sea salt, and chili flakes ( optional) to taste
generous amount of freshly ground pepper
Preheat oven to 350*F
Carefully slice the top and the bottom off the onions tomatoes, peppers, zucchinis to create a stable base. Scoop out most of the inner layers or pulp leaving about 1/4 of the vegetable thickness intact, ( see photo) creating a sturdy shell.
Place them in the baking dish.
Finely chop all of the inner layers of the vegetable you removed. Put them in a bowl and set aside.
Put the tomato flesh in a bowl and set aside.
For the filling
Place a pan over high heat and add 2’tablespoons olive oil.
Add your chopped onion, carrot and zucchini and sauté.
Thinly slice the garlic and add it to the pan. Sauté.
Add the vegetable inners and sauté until the vegetables caramelize nicely.
Add a generous amount of salt and freshly ground pepper, since you will be adding the quinoa or rice also and it needs a good amount of seasoning.
Add the rice or quinoa and sauté for 3-4 minutes, until it turns light golden.
Add the tomato paste and sauté.
Add the 400 ml of water and the reserved tomato flesh. Bring it to a boil and Let it simmer for 15 minutes till,the rice is about 85% cooked.
Finely chop the parsley, dill, oregano and mint leaves and add them to the rice pan. Add caper, almonds, feta, figs or raisins. Mix well with the rice.
Brush vegetables with a generous amount of olive oil, both inside and out and season with salt and pepper.
Use a small spoon to help you add the filling to the vegetables. Fill them ¾ of the way because the rice will expand as it finishes cooking.
Add some broth to the pan and drizzle with olive oil.
Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes.
Remove foil and bake for another 10 minutes, until most of the liquid has evaporated and the stuffed vegetables are cooked and golden.
To serve, drizzle with some extra virgin olive oil, add a few mint leaves and enjoy!