Gem it’s or yemista (which in Greek means ‘filled with’) is a traditional recipe for Greek stuffed tomatoes and/or other vegetables that are baked, until soft and nicely browned. The traditional Greek recipe for Gemista can be either vegetarian (which in my opinion is the best!), where the Gemista are filled with rice, chopped vegetables and baked in a tomato based sauce, or they may contain minced beef or pork.
4 green bell peppers
5-6 potatoes, cut into wedges
2 red onions, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
500g/ 18 oz. rice (for risotto)
1 tin chopped tomatoes
a small bunch of parsley, chopped
a small bunch of fresh mint, chopped
2 tbsps tomato puree
2 tsps sugar
2 tbsps of butter
salt and freshly ground pepper
250 grams (8.8oz) beef mince (optional)
1. To prepare this delicious Greek stuffed tomatoes recipe, start by washing thoroughly your vegetables. Slice off the top of the tomatoes; using a spoon remove the flesh of the tomatoes and keep it in a bowl. (The flesh of the tomatoes will be the base for the tomato sauce for the Gemista.) 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, as you will use them later for the filling of the Gemista. 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 of the flesh, but be careful not to poke through their skin. Season the empty vegetables with a pinch of salt and sugar and add a little butter on the bottom of each one.
2. Prepare the sauce for the Gemista. In a blender add the flesh of the tomatoes, 5-6 tbsps olive oil, the tomato puree, sugar, season with salt and pepper and mix to combine. Set aside.
3. 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 in the saucepan and sauté for one more minute. At the end add the flesh of the eggplants (chopped) and the chopped garlic and sauté, until softened. Add the rice and continue sautéing, unit it becomes transculent. Pour in 1 tin chopped tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. As soon as the liquid has been absorbed, the stuffing is ready. Remove the pan from the stove and stir in the fresh herbs.
4. Meat Variation: If you prefer your gemista spiced up with some meat, try sizzling 250grams (8.8oz) of ground beef with the onions in the step above. Once the beef juices have been absorbed and the meat is done, chop the zucchini in small cubes, add in the saucepan and sauté for one more minute. At the end add the flesh of the eggplants (chopped) and the chopped garlic and sauté, until softened. Add the rice and continue sautéing, unit it becomes transculent. Pour in 1 tin chopped tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. As soon as the liquid has been absorbed, the stuffing is ready. Remove the pan from the stove and stir in the fresh herbs
5. 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 juice (sauce) over the vegetables and in the baking tray. Cover the vegetables with their lids and add 2-3 glasses of water.
6. Cover the Gemista with aluminium foil and bake in preheated oven at 180 degrees for 60-75 minutes. Halfway through cooking time remove the aluminium foil and bake, until nicely coloured.
7. The Gemista are equally delicious, served either warm or even straight out of the fridge. Just pair them with some salty feta cheese and enjoy!