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Stuffed tomatoes and peppers (Gemista)

Serves 4-6
Preparation 30’
Baking 1h30’

Stuffed tomatoes and peppers is a typically summer dish that belongs to the category of Greek dishes called “Ladera”, meaning dishes prepared with fresh vegetables and olive oil without the addition of any other type of fat. This recipe is the easiest around, it requires no pre-cooking, no simmering, no frying. Empty the tomatoes and peppers, prepare the filling, stuff the vegetables, bake them, done.

I only use tomatoes and peppers but my very skillful Greek mom can stuff every fresh vegetable she can find in the open air market, namely courgettes (zucchinis), aubergines (eggplants), vine leaves, you name it. In my experience, the toughest part is opening and emptying the veggies, especially the courgettes. I strongly suspect this recipe comes from a prosperous era when people had enough courgettes to destroy experimenting before getting it right.

This means that the new trend called ‘austerity’ is threatening cuisine too, so before you begin with the recipe scroll down the page and press the link to listen to Mark Blyth’s historical account of the “tighten your belts cause you’ve been living beyond your means’’ sham as you prepare the ultimate vegetarian Greek dish.

9 large, ripe, juicy and firm beefsteak tomatoes
3 large green bell peppers
2 large onions, grated
2 large garlic cloves, grated or finely chopped
1 large courgette, peeled and grated
1 medium sized aubergine, peeled and grated
200gr medium grain rice (glasse, preferably)
3 medium sized potatoes
finely chopped parsley and spearmint
salt and pepper
250ml olive oil
1 cup of water
Stuffed tomatoes and peppers (Gemista)

Rinse and drain the tomatoes and bell peppers. Place them in a large round baking pan to make sure they fit before using them all. Cut off the peppers’ tops where the stem is (careful not to cut too low). Most people do the same with tomatoes but I prefer to cut off their bottom instead.  Keep each lid close by because you’re going to need them soon.

Stuffed tomatoes and peppers (Gemista)

Using a teaspoon scoop out the insides removing most of the flesh, juices and seeds. This is easy with the peppers, you can do this by hand but when it comes to the tomatoes you have to be careful not to poke through their skin. What I do is plunge the teaspoon not to close to the skin, work my way around the inside of the tomato and empty it spoonful by spoonful. Mash the inner tomato parts to create a smooth tomato juice.

Stuffed tomatoes and peppers (Gemista)

In a separate deep bowl grate the onions, garlic, aubergine and courgette. Add some finely chopped parsley and spearmint, salt and pepper as desired, rice and a cup of olive oil. Finally, add half of the tomato juice. Use a large spoon to mix the ingredients.

Stuff the tomatoes and peppers up to three-quarters, in order to allow the mixture to expand while cooking and to not overflow or break up the vegetable and cover them with their tops. Add the potatoes in-between the tomatoes and peppers (this will also help them stand up straight) and pour the remaining tomato juice and olive oil. If you have some leftover filling, pour that on top too. Add a cup of water and you’re ready.

Stuffed tomatoes and peppers (Gemista)

Place the baking pan on the middle rack of the oven and cover it with some aluminum foil. Bake for 1h, remove the tin foil and let it bake for another 30’ until water has evaporated and the tomatoes and peppers have taken on a brown colour on top. If you see they need water during the first hour, don’t hesitate to add some more to the bottom of the pan to keep the tomatoes and peppers moist.

Take them out of the oven and allow them to cool. I personally prefer to eat them warm but this is a dish that most people like to savour straight from the fridge the next day. Don’t forget to accompany them with feta cheese, bread and wine.


Food for thought

As an introduction to Mark Blyth’s speech, I’d like to copy paste a set of laws from a wonderfully sarcastic MMT blog I discovered only recently, just to get you in the mood:

Mitchell’s laws: 
●The more federal budgets are cut and taxes increased, the weaker an economy becomes.
●Austerity is the government’s method for widening the gap between rich and poor,
 which ultimately leads to civil disorder.
● Until the 99% understand the need for federal deficits, the upper 1% will rule.
● To survive long term, a monetarily non-sovereign government must have a positive balance of payments.
● Those, who do not understand the differences between 
Monetary Sovereignty and monetary non-sovereignty, do not understand economics.
● The penalty for ignorance is slavery.
● Everything in economics devolves to motive.

And now here’s Mark Blyth himself. 🙂