March 20, 2013

Yemista - Greek Stuffed Peppers

I posted a picture on our Facebook page last week of this fabulous Yemista I was eating for dinner. 


When I say fabulous, I mean out-of-this-world, can't-stop-eating, dream-about-it delicious.

I was planning on making it sometime in the near future, but y'all couldn't wait!  I had demands left and right for the recipe.  And trust me, you need this recipe.

As I mentioned before, I was lucky enough to spend some time with an amazing Greek family a few weeks ago.  My boyfriend's mother happens to be an incredible gourmet cook - probably one of the best cooks I have ever known.  Have you ever met someone who is able to make absolutely everything taste amazing - even things you didn't think you even liked!?  And never uses a recipe!?  And makes it seem effortless!??  AND keeps a kitchen so clean you could eat off the floor!!??

My idol....

Among so many amazing dishes (including biscotti, spinach rice, lemon potatoes, and this amazing onion dip that I am determined to re-create), she made Yemista - aka Greek stuffed peppers.


Typically, this dish includes ground beef - however, many Greeks make it without the beef, especially this time of year, when it's time to fast (no meat or dairy) before Easter (Greeks fast for 40 days before Easter - I fast for 364 days before Easter).

The inherently vegan stuffing is usually a combination of rice, tomato, and herbs.  This stuffing is used to fill not only peppers, but also tomatoes, zucchini, or eggplant.


I used a combination of both long grain white rice, and a little brown rice - just to vary the texture a bit.  My boyfriend's mother also adds craisins (or raisins) to give a little texture - the combination of savory and a touch of sweet is amazing.  If the savory and sweet combo is not your thing, you could add pine nuts for added texture (which is what I plan on doing next time I make this - which will be soon because it's so yummy).  For the herbs, she uses a combination of fresh parsley and dill. 


If you've eaten Greek food before, you've probably had dill.  I love this little herb - so flavorful and so fresh tasting.  I can't get enough of it.  But there are some people out there that don't love dill - feel free to just add more parsley, or use a little fresh mint (but lessen the amount).  I would highly recommend the dill though - in my opinion, it's one of the flavors that really make this dish pop. 

But wanna know the flavor that absolutely makes this dish pop?? 


Greek olive oil.

Oil?? 

*gasp*

I know what you're going to say - "Ali, you always talk about not using oil because it's virtually nutritionally devoid, and all fat."  Yes, thank you, I know.  However, if you don't have severe health issues, and consume an otherwise low-fat diet, a little olive oil here and there is fine. 

Plus, the reason I make the exception here, is because this happens to be the most amazing olive oil I've ever tasted.  Straight from the olive trees on the Greek island of Karpathos. 

Lucky me, huh?

If you're not lucky enough to have access to such amazing, pure Greek olive oil, I highly recommend using a very good quality olive oil for this dish.  It truly makes it.  And remember, although you might be spending more on the oil for this recipe, the remaining ingredients are very inexpensive - a few peppers, tomatoes, herbs, and rice??  C'mon - splurge on the oil people!!  As a whole-foods, plant-based rock star, it'll probably last you forever anyway.....

Now here is one last disclaimer before I present you with the recipe - this is a time consuming dish to make.  I'm not gonna lie.  Just like the Butternut Squash Risotto, you will need to give this dish time, patience, and love (and most likely blood, sweat, and definitely tears). 

It's really not that bad, actually - just involves a bit of babysitting.  Just grab your laptop or iPad, re-pin recipes from Project Kale on Pinterest, enjoy the amazing aroma that fills your home......and smile :)

Love & Kale,
Ali


Yemista - Greek Stuffed Peppers

Serves:  4
Print here.
 
This simple, yet flavorful dish is absolutely delicious.  You could use just peppers and tomatoes, or a combination of peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, and eggplant (if using zucchini, add the flesh in with the tomato flesh).  The Craisins add a hint of sweetness to the savory stuffing.  Alternatively, you could use pine nuts for added texture.  Also, if you don't love dill, you could add fresh mint instead (just increase the amount of fresh parsley and reduce the amount of mint to 1/2 cup because mint is more potent than dill).  Be sure to use high quality Greek olive oil - it really makes this dish!

Ingredients:
  • 4 large green peppers
  • 4 large tomatoes
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 3/4 cup Greek olive oil
  • 2 cups white rice
  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 1 cup fresh dill, chopped
  • 1 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 cups vegetable broth (a little more as needed)
  • 1 cup Craisins (or raisins)
  • 1-6oz can tomato paste
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1-8oz can tomato sauce + 1/4 cup Greek olive oil
Instructions:
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 
  2. Cut tops off of the peppers and tomatoes - set tops aside.  Remove seeds and membranes from peppers and discard.  Remove flesh from tomatoes, and put in a food processor.  Pulse a few times until finely diced.
  3. Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Add onions and sauté until translucent, about 8 minutes or so.
  4. Add the diced tomatoes, tomato paste, and broth, and stir until combined.
  5. Add the herbs, salt, pepper, rice, and Craisins.  Stir until combined, and sauté for about 5 minutes.
  6. Remove the mixture from the heat and set aside to let the rice absorb the liquid for 20 minutes.  In the meantime, combine the tomato sauce and olive oil and set aside.
  7. When the stuffing is done (it won't be cooked), stuff your peppers and tomatoes until almost full - but don't fill to the top!  Place the peppers and tomatoes in a large casserole pan, and fill the pan with about a 1/2" of water.  Pour the tomato sauce and oil mixture over the top of the peppers and tomatoes, and add a dash of salt and pepper to taste.  Place the tops back on the peppers and tomatoes (so adorable!).
  8. Cover the pan tightly with foil, and bake for about 35-45 minutes, depending on the size of your vegetables.
  9. Uncover, reduce heat to 350, and bake an additional 30-45 minutes, (again, depending on the size of your vegetables and accuracy of your oven temp). 
  10. When cooked, the peppers should be tender - check this with a knife.  The outside of the vegetable should be slightly charred, and the sauce should be reduced. 
  11. Serve with a large salad, bread, and wine - ENJOY :)
Lovely veggies

Saute onion in oil until translucent

Add tomatoes and tomato paste

Add herbs and seasonings

Add rice and Craisins, set aside


Ready for stuffing!

Ready for the oven!


Aren't the tops adorable?
 
Yummy Yemista
 

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