Yemista is a traditional Greek dish that is easy and very adaptable. In our recipe, we use tomatoes, peppers and eggplants, which is common, but we give the stuffing our own twist. (We like a combination of brown rice, barley and wheat berries but, really, any grain is fine for this dish.)
3 large tomatoes, 3 bell peppers and 2 Italian eggplant (or any combination you like)
2 lbs russet potatoes
1 1/2 cup brown rice
1 cup pearl barley
1/2 cup wheat berries
4 cloves of garlic (minced)
1 large yellow onion (chopped fine)
1 small bunch fresh basil (chopped)
1/2 bunch fresh parsley (chopped)
2 tbspns dried oregano
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 can tomato sauce
1/2 cup grated parmesan
1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1 teaspoon ground pepper
1 to 1 1/2 cups extra virgin olive oil
Cook all grains until just al-dente and drain. Set aside.
Wash all the vegetables. Cut just the tops off the tomatoes and peppers and slice a thick slice from one side of each of the eggplant, set aside. Remove and discard the membrane and seeds from the peppers. With a sharp spoon, scoop out the inside of the tomatoes, discarding the seeds and the thick middle but reserving the flesh (chopping first) and juice in a bowl. Scoop out the inside of the eggplant and reserve.
Place all the hollowed vegetables in a deep casserole. (Remember to keep the “caps” of the tomatoes, peppers and eggplant as they will be used to cover the vegetables once they’re stuffed.
Chop up the reserved flesh of the eggplant and combine with the chopped onion and minced garlic.
Add 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil to a frying pan and cook the eggplant, onion and garlic mixture until soft.
Combine the mixture with the chopped tomatoes and juice. Add the grains and herbs and one cup olive oil, tomato paste, cheese and salt and pepper. Combine well.
Heat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Fill all the vegetables with the grain mixture and conver with their respective “caps”.
Peel and cut potatoes into 2 inch pieces and place in between the vegetables in such a way that the potatoes are all in contact with the bottom of the pan. Drizzle the remaining olive oil over the vegetables and sprinkle potatoes with salt and pepper. Pour a half cup of water into the pan taking care not to pour over the vegetables. Add tomato sauce, pouring only over the potatoes and into the pan.
Bake for 1 1/2 hours, checking every 20 minutes to make sure the pan does not get dry. There should always be a layer of liquid in the bottom of the pan for the potatoes to cook. If the tops of the peppers and tomatoes begin to brown, cover loosely with aluminum foil.
The dish is best served at room temperature and is delicious the second and third day. Serve with warm, crusty bread, feta and olives.