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Yemista (or Gemista) - Stuffed Vegetables, Greek Style

 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.)

Serves 8

Ingredients:

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.

 

 

 

Tourlou - The Greek Ratatouille

Ratatouille in French, Tourlou in Greek or Briam in Turkish.  It's a classic, versatile dish that works beautifully as a side dish to a meat or chicken main but can stand alone as the main attraction.  Just add good, crusty bread, feta and olives on the side and you're good to go.

Start with onions, garlic and tomatoes and add the veggies of your choice.  The traditional recipe calls for eggplant and zucchini but green beans, artichoke, okra can all be added in or used as a substitute.  

Fresh, ripe tomatoes are best but if they're not available, chopped canned tomatoes (without herbs or salt) do a fine job as stand-ins.

           

 

 

 

Ingredients

1/4 cup (plus more for drizzling) Extra virgin olive oil

5-6 ripe or 28 oz of canned tomatoes

2 - 3 medium onions

5 cloves of garlic

2 medium eggplant

3 - 4 medium zucchini

fresh basil leaves

 

Heat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. 

 

Cut the eggplant and zucchini into large cubes or thick strips.  In a large casserole, toss with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper and place in the oven.  Stir occasionally until just cooked through (15 to 20 minutes, on average).

While the eggplant and zucchini roast, rough chop your tomatoes (if using fresh), rough chop the garlic and thickly slice the onion.

In a quarter cup of extra virgin olive oil, saute the onion 5 - 7 minutes, add garlic and continue sauteing for another minute then add the tomatoes.  Bring to a simmer and cover, stirring occasionally for approximately 15 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in the fresh basil leaves.

Lower oven heat to 350 degrees, combine tomato mixture with the vegetables in the casserole and return to the oven for 15 minutes, tossing occasionally.

Serve as a side dish to chicken or meat or as a main course with crusty bread and feta.