Gemista is a classic Greek dish of stuffed peppers or other vegetables. “Gemista” literally means “filled” or “stuffed” and is generally made with vegetables such as peppers, eggplants, tomatoes, potatoes (or any other vegetable you like that can be stuffed). The filling can be made with meat or without for a vegetarian option.
Historically, gemista was considered a summer food, because that was when many of the vegetables ripened. Also, the dish could be eaten during the very hot Mediterranean summers as either a slightly hot or cold dish.
This is one of my favorite Greek meals and it’s actually better on the second day, when all of the flavors have spent some time getting to know one another 🙂 . The vegetarian version is also a good meal during Lent.
The stuffing options, as well as the spices used, are limitless. Use whatever you like. The one constant, however, is that rice must be part of the ingredients. If you are making the vegetarian version, simply replace the ground meat with an equal amount (by volume) of rice.
- 4 items of any of the following: peppers, eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, potatoes
- Sea salt
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 tbsp rice
- 8 oz ground beef or turkey
- Salt and pepper
- Dried mint
- Dried oregano
- Dried basil
- 14 oz can of diced tomatoes
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Wash the vegetables to be stuffed. Cut a horizontal slice across the top to form a sort of “cap”. With a spoon, scoop out the insides into a bowl as these will be included in the stuffing. (Note: do not include the seeds of the peppers.) Place the vegetables in an oiled baking dish large enough for all of them to “stand” comfortably. Sprinkle the insides with sea salt.
In the bowl with the insides of the vegetables, add the meat (if using), along with salt and pepper and the mint, oregano, and basil. As indicated above, if you are making the vegetarian version, substitute rice for the meat. Mix well.
Heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a sauté pan and sauté the onions and garlic until translucent then add the rice and stir to coat well and cook for one minute. Add the meat and vegetable mixture and cook for another ten minutes until browned.
Fill the vegetables about 2/3 of the way full, the rice will expand as it cooks in the oven. Cover with the caps. Pour the diced tomatoes in the dish between the gemista and bake for about one hour.