Gemista, meaning “stuffed with” in Greek, is a traditional recipe in the style of Ladera, or “prepared with olive oil.” A dish like this requires the cook to break out the good stuff—quality extra virgin olive oil will intensify the flavor. Though the traditional preparation doesn’t call for butter, a helpful secret is to add just a bit inside the Gemista before stuffing. In-season tomatoes are the choicest ingredient, but Gemista can be delicious when it features eggplants and peppers or even courgettes. This melt-in-the mouth Greek delicacy is best served with a block of salty feta cheese and lots of bread. Opa!

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INGREDIENTS

  • 8 tomatoes
  • 4 green bell peppers
  • 1-2 eggplants
  • 5-6 potatoes, cut into wedges
  • 2 red onions, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 zucchini, chopped
  • 18 ounces rice (for risotto)
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • a small bunch of parsley, chopped
  • a small bunch of fresh mint, chopped
  • 2 tablespoon tomato puree
  • 2 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoon of butter
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • olive oil
  • 8 ounces beef mince (optional)

**Start by thoroughly washing your vegetables.

  1. Slice off the top of the tomatoes, using a spoon remove the flesh and keep it in a bowl. Slice off the top of the eggplants and remove the flesh, using a spoon. Cut the flesh of the eggplants in small cubes and set aside. Slice off the top of the peppers and remove the seeds and white parts from the inside. Place the empty vegetables on a large baking tray. Try to leave the vegetables as thin as possible, leaving just a little flesh, but be careful not to poke through their skin.
  2. Season the empty vegetables with a pinch of salt and sugar and add a little butter on the bottom of each one.
  3. Prepare the sauce for the Gemista. In a blender, add the flesh of the tomatoes, 5-6 tablespoons of olive oil, the tomato puree, sugar, salt and pepper and mix to combine. Set aside.
  4. Prepare the filling for the Gemista. In a saucepan, add some olive oil and sauté the onions until translucent. Chop the zucchini in small cubes, add to the saucepan and sauté for one more minute. Add the flesh of the eggplants (chopped) and the chopped garlic and sauté until softened. Add the rice and continue sautéing unit it becomes translucent. Pour in 1 tin chopped tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. As soon as the liquid has been absorbed, the stuffing is ready.
  5. Remove the pan from the stove and stir in the fresh herbs.
  6. Meat Variation: If you prefer your Gemista spiced up with some meat, try sizzling ground beef with the onions in the step above.
  7. Assemble the Gemista. Spoon the filling inside the empty vegetables and place the potatoes, cut into pieces, in between the vegetables. Season with salt and pepper and pour the tomato sauce over the vegetables and in the baking tray. Cover the vegetables with their lids and add 2-3 glasses of water.
  8. Cover the Gemista with aluminum foil and bake in preheated oven at 180 degrees for 60-75 minutes. Halfway through cooking time remove the aluminum foil and bake until nicely colored.
  9. Serve either warm or straight out of the fridge, paired with salty feta cheese.

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Sarah Taillon