Beef, Pork and Lamb

Gemista—Greek Style Stuffed and Baked Vegetables

Tomatoes, squash, peppers and eggplants are all imports that thrive in the Mediterranean basin. All lend themselves to being stuffed. This is a Greek version. Bring these to table with a PDO Greek feta, a crusty bread and a bowl of olives. Scatter some freshly chopped dill weed over all just before serving. You could add some grated Pecorino. Try using a mix of toasted and ground cumin and coriander with a pinch of cinnamon and allspice to season the meat. Use cilantro instead of parsley .Pine nuts and raisins would not be out of place here.

Ingredients:

  • 2 firm-ripe large beefsteak type tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 3 medium-sized Italian eggplants
  • 3 bell peppers
  • 1 medium zucchini
  • 25 oz. can of tomato puree
  • 2 yellow onions finely chopped
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic finely chopped
  • 1 lb. of ground beef or lamb
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon of dried oregano
  • ¾ cup of uncooked, rinsed Campanini Vialone Nano Rice
  • 1 cup water
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 small bunch parsley, chopped
  • 1 bunch of chopped dill
  • 4 tablespoons of breadcrumbs

Preparation:

Time: 3 hours
Yield: 4 SERVINGS
  • Preheat oven to 400° F degrees. Position the rack in the middle of the oven.
  • Lightly oil a baking dish large enough to tightly hold the vegetables.
  • Make a “lid" for the tomatoes by taking off a slice of the top. Leave the stems on, to serve as handles. Core and seed them.
  • Sprinkle a pinch of salt and a smidgen of sugar inside each tomato.
  • Turn them upside down on a plate to drain.
  • Make a cover for the bell peppers by slicing off the top. Keep the stems on. Remove the seeds and ribs.
  • For the eggplants, remove a thin slice from the stem end to the blossom end. You can also take a thin slice off the bottom so they sit level. Scoop out the flesh with a spoon. Chop the flesh into medium-fine dice. Sprinkle it with a pinch of salt. Treat the zucchini the same way as the eggplant.
  • Blend together the tomato puree and one cup of extra virgin olive oil.
  • Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Heat 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil in a large sauté pan or skillet.
  • Sauté the meat on medium-high heat for 5–6 minutes until lightly browned.
  • Sprinkle in the salt and dried oregano.
  • Add the diced onion and sauté until translucent.
  • Stir in the garlic.
  • Squeeze the excess liquid from the eggplant flesh and stir the eggplant into the beef. Do the same with the zucchini. Cook until the vegetables soften.
  • Add the rice.
  • Stir in 1/2 the tomato sauce along with 1 cup of water. Simmer 5 minutes.
  • Remove the stuffing to a bowl and add the parsley and dill. Adjust salt and pepper. There will be a lot of liquid. No worry. The rice will absorb it.
  • Fill each vegetable 3/4 full to allow for the rice to expand as it cooks. Cover the vegetables with their lids and arrange them tightly in the baking dish.
  • Pour the remaining tomato sauce liberally over the ‘gemista’.
  • Finish with breadcrumbs and a pinch of sugar
  • Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil.
  • Bake covered for 40 minutes.
  • After 40 minutes, remove the foil.
  • Bake for one hour more uncovered.
  • Let rest for 10-15 minutes before serving.
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