Rice Stuffed Vegetables (Yemista)

Hmm… What can I say about this dish?… How can I effectively describe the deliciousness?… How can I explain the nostalgia it’s causing?… Hmm…

Maybe if I place here a photo, and say that it tastes like an explosion of spring and summer in your mouth?

And for the nostalgia? Well, I’ll just insert another photo here. One that shows the place, where most often my family eats this food, prepared exquisitely by my mother. With all the vegetables straight from our garden, which my father so efficiently takes care of. :D

Sigh.. Enough with the talking to myself! (I anyway do that more often than I should.)

Rice stuffed vegetables, or Yemista as we call it in Greece, is right up there in my top 2 favorite dishes. EASILY. I hardly ever wait until it’s served. Taking bites standing on top of the tray is my thing. Ask my parents!

We mostly prepare it in the spring/summer period, so when I visit my country for the summer holidays it’s always there waiting for me, at our vacation house. With tiny, fresh vegetables from our awesome garden. With mommy’s expertise. With the view to the sea. You get the point!

I will not lie. It takes some time to prepare. But… Saying “it’s worth it” is an understatement! It’s not an after-work dinner. It’s a “weekend lunch” affair :D

Start by preparing the vegetables. Remember to put aside one of each vegetable you’re planning to fill. You’ll use it for the filling.

To empty the zucchini I used the 2 tools you see in the photo. The one with the cylindrical tip to create the initial hole, and the other one to remove as much flesh as possible. You should cut open both sides.

Save the insides, at least from two zucchini, in a bowl.

With a tablespoon remove the flesh of the tomatoes as much as possible. Save at least half of it together with the zucchini leftovers!

Cut the cup of the peppers and with your fingers remove the seeds. No need to save them.

What makes this dish so delicious is the abundance of fresh herbs. Parsley, basil, and spearmint. The smell is gorgeous! Chop them finely.

Chop finely the onions and garlic (or use the food processor as I do).

In the food processor smash the reserved flesh of the tomatoes and from the zucchini.

Also in the food processor, chop the one whole zucchini and the one whole pepper.

In a large bowl combine: onions, garlic, fresh herbs, processed tomato flesh, processed zucchini flesh, processed vegetables, pinch of oregano, salt, pepper, cumin, two tablespoons of olive oil.

Add the rice in the same bowl and mix with a spoon really really well. You want a homogeneous mix!

Using a spoon, or your hands, fill in the vegetables 2/3 full. Not more, because they will crack while cooking and the rice will be all over the place.

Put them in the oven tray, with their caps on of course. The tighter you place them the better.

Add the potatoes around them.

In the food processor prepare the tomato sauce using 2 whole tomatoes, 2 tablespoons of thick tomato paste, pinch of sugar, and salt. Pour it over the vegetables.

Sprinkle pepper and some extra salt around. On the cap of each tomato sprinkle some sugar. You’ll not regret this!

Pour the olive oil and some water (better in a corner, like this you don’t wash all the seasoning from the top). Swirl carefully to distribute the liquids. Place in the oven and cook at 240ºC (460ºC), until the vegetables are wrinkled and their color darker, and there’s no water in the tray, just oil.

I actually covered the tray with aluminum foil for the first 30-40min, and then removed it. I do this because I don’t trust my oven so much and I’m afraid it will burn them without cooking them. If you’re not sure, I suggest you cover them. Nothing to lose.

It looked like this when it entered the oven:

Aaaaaand like this when it came out:

See the beautiful color of the tomato caps? And how the peppers and zucchini got wrinkled and dark? :D

Delicious! DeLIcious I tell you!

And please. EAT the vegetables! Don’t be the kind of person that eats the rice and discards the vegetable. Please don’t. I never understood that. Honestly, they are so tasty! How can you NOT eat it?? And the tomato cap, with the pinch of sugar that was added on top of it before cooking? Best part!

If only you could smell it.. Spring and summer. And a pinch of nostalgia for me :)

Have a nice day!

INGREDIENTS

Makes around 18 pieces of vegetables

Zucchini and peppers (plus one extra of each for the filling)

Tomatoes

2-3 medium potatoes

20g fresh parsley

20g fresh basil

20g fresh mint (spearmint)

2 large onions

4 cloves of garlic

½ tsp dried oregano

½ tsp cumin, grounded

5g salt (for the filling)

Pepper

2 tsp olive oil

500g rice (pudding rice, risotto rice, not parboiled)

For the tomato sauce

2 whole tomatoes

2 tsp thick tomato paste

½ tsp sugar

Salt to taste

To pour on top, in the oven tray

¾ cup olive oil

Water

Pinch of sugar on tomato caps

Sprinkle some salt and pepper

QUICK INSTRUCTIONS

Start by emptying the zucchini, tomatoes, and peppers. Remember to save one whole zucchini and one pepper. For the zucchini cut open both sides. Reserve the insides of half of the tomatoes and at least from two zucchini in a bowl. Chop finely the fresh herbs. Chop onions, garlic, whole zucchini, whole pepper in the food processor. Smash the reserved flesh of the tomatoes and zucchini.

In a large bowl combine: onions, garlic, fresh herbs, processed tomato flesh, processed zucchini flesh, processed vegetables, oregano, salt, pepper, cumin, 2 tbsp of olive oil. Add rice and mix well. Using a spoon, or your hands, fill in the vegetables 2/3 full. Place them in the oven tray, with their caps on. Add the potatoes around them.

In the food processor prepare the tomato sauce with 2 tomatoes, 2 tablespoons of thick tomato paste, pinch of sugar, and salt. Pour it over the vegetables. Sprinkle pepper and some extra salt around. On the cap of each tomato sprinkle some sugar. Pour the olive oil and some water (better in a corner, like this you don’t wash all the seasoning from the top). Swirl carefully to distribute the liquids. Place in the oven and cook at 240ºC (460ºC), until ready.

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16 thoughts on “Rice Stuffed Vegetables (Yemista)

  1. Heidi @ homeingreece

    I too love gemista. I make mine differently (some day I’ll post about them), mainly because I made up the recipe one day without looking at a cookbook or asking an actual Greek for advice. It’s good to see how they’re really done!! Yours look absolutely delicious! I am very impressed by your zucchini-flesh extraction skills. And I love the sugar tip!

    Reply
    1. Villy Post author

      My cookbook is called “My mother” ;)
      I still wish I could find the small, light green zucchini and the elongated aubergines (tsakonikes) we have in Greece.. They make a difference. :D

      Reply
  2. saltandserenity

    I never would have thought of hollowing out the whole zucchini, just like a manicotti. So cool! I usually just cut the zucchini in half lengthwise, scoop out flesh and stuff each half. Is the rice raw or cooked when you stuff the vegetables?
    Beautiful photos! Makes me want to make this right now.

    Reply
    1. Villy Post author

      The rice is raw. That’s why you don’t stuff them completely. The juices of the vegetables and the stuffing guarantee a perfectly cooked rice by the end of cooking!
      Thanks for stopping by! :)

      Reply
  3. Pingback: What I’m cooking today {Still here!} | For the Love of Feeding

    1. Villy Post author

      Hi Angie. No, everything is raw. The rice has enough time to cook with all the vegetable liquids in the oven!

      Reply
  4. Mar

    Whoah…. I’ve been living in Greece for a few months now but I haven’t met a single person speaking English as well as you do, including the family I live with, nice to know some Greeks do speak English!
    Also, when I tried this, I didn’t have it with the caramelized sugar, will ask for the alteration next time the family gets together to cook this awesome dish.
    I still like Skepasti the most though.
    Good luck with the blog, keep posting new dishes, I’ll be happy to read the next one! :)

    Reply
  5. kostas

    My mom makes them the same way (minus cumin we save it for soutzoukakia lol) fresh veggies from our exohiko garden my dads olive oil from his trees and my moms fresh herbs right outside our door!the smells!!!!omg nothing like it!!coming back home from the beach in the summer and eat this with feta kalamata olives and crusty Greek bread with red wine from the village…….does it get any better?
    Can’t wait to go to Greece next summer to become reality for now I’m dreaming lol!!!

    Reply

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