How to Make the Best Yemista
Yemista means “stuffed” in Greek. This is why this dish has many variations - many vegetables can be stuffed with nearly anything! In my family I’ve seen many kinds of Yemista, sometimes it’s peppers stuffed with a fragrant beef mixture, other times it’s zucchini stuffed with grains and vegetables. That’s the beauty of it, there is really no wrong way to do it!
To keep it simple, in this episode I made stuffed peppers and stuffed tomatoes. These are my family’s favorites. The mixture contained more vegetables, Carolina rice, and lots of fresh herbs. It’s worth noting that these recipes are very inexpensive. The origin of this dish is rooted in the vegetables most Greeks grow in their own gardens.
At first glance the ingredients list might look long, but assembling does not take long at all. Most of the vegetables are chopped in the food processor, then they are cooked on the stovetop. The stovetop element is essential for softening everything and blending the flavors. Then the vegetables are stuffed, potatoes are added, and it all goes into the oven.
As I point out in the episode, I add the potato in order to make this a full meal. This entire dish is completely vegan and we often make it during Lent. The potato gives it an extra heartiness and rounds it out to be a full main course. I usually make both stuffed peppers and tomatoes because my family loves both, but feel free to just make all of one or the other if you have a strong preference. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!
“Yemista” means stuffed in Greek. In our country this dish is basically any kind of vegetable that’s stuffed with a delicious rice or meat mixture. In our house we prefer tomatoes or peppers stuffed with a vegetable and rice filling so that is how I’m making it today. If you want to try other variations with meat please feel free to email me via my website and I’ll happily reply!
Makes 6 Servings (two vegetables per serving)
Timing: 20 minutes prep, 90-105 minutes cooking
6 medium green peppers
6 large tomatoes
4 small yellow onions, cleaned and halved
1 small eggplant, cut in ½’’ pieces
1 medium zucchini, cut in ½’’ pieces
8 cloves of garlic
3 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 1’’ pieces
2 tsp cumin
1 cup long grain rice (I use Carolina)
3 tsp sea salt
1 ½ tsp black pepper
3 tbsp tomato paste
¾ cup chopped parsley
½ cup chopped mint
6 tbsp olive oil, plus more for drizzling
¼ cup breadcrumbs (I use Italian)
3 cups of water
Optional topping: ¾ cup feta cheese, crumbled
Equipment needed: food processor, 12x17’’ baking dish.
1. Preheat oven to 375*
2. Prepare your peppers – cut the tops and reserve. Remove all seeds and membranes.
3. Prepare your tomatoes – cut the tops and reserve. Remove all seeds and flesh and reserve.
4. In a food processor, finely chop your onion and garlic. Remove from the food processor and set aside (you will be sautéing in a later step). Do not clean the food processor.
5. Add the eggplant and zucchini to the food processor and finely chop. Remove the chopped vegetables and place into mixing bowl. Again, do not clean the food processor.
6. Add all tomato membranes and one heaping tablespoon of the tomato paste into the food processor and pulse until completely liquified.
7. In a large sauté pan over medium heat, add 6 tbsp of olive oil. Add onion and garlic to the pan and cook for 1-2 minutes or until fragrant. Add your eggplant and zucchini mixture and sauté for an additional 2 minutes. Add in 2 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper and cumin and stir to combine. Add in your rice and continue to sauté for 3-5 minutes. Finally, add your tomato juice mixture and mix to fully combine. Remove from heat.
8. Stir your fresh herbs into your rice mixture.
9. Fill each of your vegetables, making sure to evenly distribute the mixture. Once filled, top with 1 tsp of breadcrumbs and place the tops of your vegetable back over the filled vegetable.
10. In the small mixing bowl add your potatoes and toss with 1 tsp salt and ½ tsp pepper. Set aside.
11. Mix your remaining tomato paste into the 3 cups of water and stir to combine. Carefully pour this into the baking dish.
12. Take your potatoes and strategically place throughout the dish to help keep your stuffed vegetables in place.
13. Place in the oven, uncovered for 1 hour and half. At 1 and a half hours, check to ensure your rice is cooked. If cooked, remove from oven. In uncooked, cook for an additional 15 minutes and test your rice again. Repeat in 15 minute increments until your rice is fully cooked.
14. Serve hot or at room temperature. Top with feta (optional). Enjoy! Note: ovens do vary so make sure to check as needed and modify cooking time accordingly.
Nikki Glekas is the owner of Nikki Glekas Events, a full-service catering and events company located in Stamford, CT. She is currently operating with COVID-safe procedures and is happy to discuss your event and catering needs with you. To discuss further please contact email@example.com or call 203.658.8659.