Yemista (rice-stuffed vegetables) is a traditional Greek Vegetarian dish. Usually made with tomatoes and peppers. Although other vegetables like zucchinis, eggplants, or even onions are often used too.
These Greek stuffed vegetables are baked in the oven along with potatoes, and plenty of olive oil. It's a light, flavorful dish made only with fresh ingredients.
The Stuffed Vegetable Filling
In the classic version of Yemista, the filling is made using rice, grated & chopped fresh veggies and herbs. Other than the classic version though, in some parts of Greece ground meat, or even pine nuts and raisins (yes, tastes as bad as it sounds) are used in the filling as well.
So to make the classic filling (which is used in this recipe), you mix raw rice, along with the scooped tomato insides that are hand-grated, grated zucchini, minced garlic & onion, finely chopped green bell pepper, chopped fresh mint leaves, and olive oil.
The reason you grate and chop the veggies and not blend them all together is that this way, they give a nice texture to the filling and make it more flavorful.
Type Of Rice To Use In Stuffed Vegetables
To make this dish, I always use parboiled rice because it doesn't overcook easily and keeps a nice and firm texture. Although some prefer medium-grain white rice that gives a more 'sticky' texture. But that's just a matter of personal preference.
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How Much Filling For Each Vegetable?
What most people find confusing with this dish is the amount of filling to add into each vegetable. Since rice tends to double in size when it gets cooked and you don't want to overstuff the veggies.
The trick to this is to add 1 tablespoon of rice for each (medium-sized vegetable) when you prepare the filling and 2 tablespoons of rice for each large vegetable.
Confused? Let me break this down a bit. Once you have added all of the ingredients for the filling in the mixing bowl, and you're about to add the rice, keep in mind that for each medium-sized vegetable you'll need 1 tablespoon of rice. Whereas for each large-sized vegetable ( an eggplant for example or a large tomato) you'll need 2 tablespoons of rice.
This way the filling is always just enough to fill each and every vegetable.
How To Prepare The Vegetables For Stuffing
To prepare the peppers simply cut a 1-2 cm slice off the top. Make sure you don’t cut the peppers too close to the base so the stalk remains intact. Discard any seeds and white membranes leaving their insides clean.
NOTE: Put the top back on, on each vegetable (we want them to fit so no spaces remain which tends to dry the filling while baking).
To prepare the tomatoes, cut a 1-2 cm slice off the top. With a pointy spoon, scoop of the tomato insides and set aside (they'll be used in the filling).
To prepare the zucchinis, and eggplants, cut off each end and use a melon baller or a knife to scoop off and discard the insides.
How To Fill The Veggies & Place In The Pan
Using a spoon, completely fill each vegetable and put the top back on. Place in a large pan leaving space around for the potatoes.
NOTE: The potatoes that are placed around each vegetable, help to keep it in place and prevent it from falling in the pan.
How To Cook Yemista
Yemista takes about 1 hour to cook in the oven. One thing you'll need to watch out for is to not let them burn on top. Vegetables don't take long to cook in contrary to the filling that does take its time.
So to prevent the vegetables from burning until the filling is done, cover the pan with aluminum foil after the veggies have gotten the desired color all over (usually after the first 20-25 minutes of baking).
This will prevent the vegetables from getting burned, while it creates steam for the filling to cook to perfection.
SERVE WITH: A big piece of feta cheese.
Yemista - Greek Stuffed Vegetables With Rice
For The Filling:
- 1 very ripe tomato
- 1 small green bell pepper finely chopped
- 3 garlic cloves minced
- 1 small onion minced
- 1 small zucchini grated
- 6-8 fresh mint leaves finely chopped
- 13-14 tablespoons parboiled rice
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
For The Stuffed Vegetables:
- 4 medium-sized tomatoes
- 3 medium-sized green bell peppers
- 2 medium-sized zucchinis
- 2 medium-sized eggplants
- 3 medium-sized potatoes peeled & cut into wedges
- 120 ml olive oil
- salt & pepper
- aluminum foil
For The Filling:
- Using a box grater, grate the tomato insides along with the ripe tomato for the filling into a large mixing bowl.
- Add the remaining ingredients for the filling, season with salt and pepper and combine well. Set aside.
For The Stuffed Vegetables:
- Preheat oven to 446 °F / 230°C.
- Rinse and prepare all the veggies. Cut off the ends of the zucchinis and peppers.
- Slice off the top of each vegetable about 1-2 cm.
- With a pointy tablespoon scoop of the tomato insides and set aside.
- Remove any seeds and white membranes from the peppers leaving their insides clean.
- Using a melon baller or a sharp knife, remove most of the inside flesh of the zucchinis and eggplants and discard it. Leave a 1-2cm thick wall lining on the veggies.
- Place all veggies in a large pan leaving enough space around them to place the potatoes.
- Using a spoon fill each vegetable completely and place its top back on.
- Add the potatoes all around the veggies to hold them in place.
- Add just a drop of water in order to cover the bottom of the pan.
- Pour the olive oil and season the veggies and potatoes with salt and pepper.
- Cook for about 1 hour. After the first 20-25 minutes of baking, cover the pan with aluminum foil to prevent veggies from burning on top.
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