Big juicy tomatoes are perfect for stuffing with this healthy, vegetarian mixture of rice and summer produce. Greek Gemista is a tasty summer dish that is great hot out of the oven or prepared ahead and eaten chilled.
Greek Stuffed Vegetables
Gemista or yemista (pronounced yeh-mee-STAH) means “stuffed” in Greek. You will find tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, eggplant, and even potatoes hollowed out for filling in this traditional dish.
Unlike the stuffed vegetables from the south of France, Petits Farcis, these stuffed vegetables almost always include rice in the filling. Vegetarian fillings are incredibly common, but it’s not unheard of to add little ground beef or lamb to the rice and vegetable mix for a bit of a heartier meal.
Greek Ladera Dishes
When made vegetarian, this dish falls under the category of Greek dishes called “ladera,” meaning “with oil” or “oily.” The term signifies a dish prepared with olive oil as the only source of added fat.
Typical ladera dishes fall in two categories, those cooked in an olive oil and tomato sauce and those that are cooked in an olive oil and herb sauce, without the tomato. These are traditionally peasant dishes that place a lot of importance on the quality and flavor of the vegetables used in the dish.
Our Stuffed Tomatoes Gemista Recipe
For our Gemista, we’ve chosen to fill some big, and juicy farmer’s market tomatoes with a vegetarian mixture of rice and vegetables for the ultimate summer produce-packed dish.
Look for tomatoes that are large (3 – 3 1/2 inches in diameter) and firm, but still ripe. A firm tomato will make it easier to scoop out the insides and will hold its shape as a bowl better.
When stuffing the tomatoes, remember that your rice is only partially cooked, so it will expand during the cooking time. For this reason, we don’t want to pack the filling tightly into the tomatoes. Tightly packed filling means that as the rice expands it has nowhere to go and the tomatoes will burst. By leaving the filling only loosely packed and filling the tomatoes slightly under-full, you will leave enough room for the rice to expand and decrease your chances of burst tomatoes.
Believe it or not these stuffed tomatoes are even better the second day, meaning they are the perfect make-ahead dish for summer entertaining.
Make up a big batch and celebrate summer produce with us!
Gemista (Greek Stuffed Tomatoes)
- 1 Tbsp olive oil, divided
- ½ onion, diced fine
- 2 garlic cloves, divided
- 1 c zucchini, diced fine
- 1 c eggplant, diced fine
- 1 c white rice, medium grain, dry
- 1 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped, or 1 tsp dry
- 1 Tbsp fresh mint, chopped, or 1 tsp dry
- 1 ½ tsp salt, divided
- ½ tsp pepper, divided
- 7 large tomatoes, round, and firm but ripe (beefsteak work well)
- 4 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into wedges
- 2 oz feta cheese, for serving (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350F.
- Heat 1 tsp olive oil in a large sauté pan. Add onions and sauté for 3-5 minutes over medium high heat, until they begin to turn translucent.
- Mince one of the garlic cloves. Add the minced garlic, zucchini, and eggplant to the sauté pan. Sauté over medium heat until the zucchini begins to soften, 5 min.
- If necessary, add a little more oil to the pan. Add the rice and sauté until lightly toasted, 3-5 min.
- Finely dice one of the tomatoes and add it to the mixture in the saucepan with the parsley, mint, ½ tsp salt, and ¼ tsp ground black pepper. Simmer over medium low heat until the liquid has been absorbed, 3-5 minutes. Remove the mixture from the heat.
- Cut the top ¼ inch from the tomatoes, so you can access the insides. Using a spoon (or a small paring knife) gently scoop out the insides of the tomatoes, being careful to leave a nice wall of tomato flesh intact, so the tomatoes will still retain their shape. Place the tomato innards into the bowl of your food processor. Dice the tops that you cut off of the tomatoes and add them to the food processor along with 1 garlic clove, 1 tsp salt, and ¼ tsp black pepper, process until a smooth sauce forms. (You should have approximately 1 ½ - 2 c of sauce. If you have less than 1 ½ c of sauce, add ½ c of water to the sauce and mix well.)
- Arrange the scooped out tomato shells in a 9x13 baking dish that has been brushed with olive oil. Fill each of the tomatoes loosely with the rice mixture to just below the tops of the tomatoes. Arrange the potato wedges around the tomatoes. (These will help hold the tomatoes up and intact as they cook.) Pour the sauce over the potatoes and stuffed tomatoes. Cover the dish with aluminum foil.
- Place the dish in the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 1 hour, until the tomatoes are soft and roasted.
- Serve immediately topped with crumbled feta cheese if desired. (These are equally good made ahead and served as a cold summer meal.)
More farmer’s market recipes from some of our favorite bloggers:
- Carrot Ravioli with Broccoli-Ricotta Filling by Caroline’s Cooking
- Farmstand Kebobs with Tahini Dipping Sauce by Jane’s Adventures in Dinner
- Halibut with Sugar Snap Peas, Mushrooms and Potatoes en Papillote by Crazy Foodie Stunts
- Spaghetti and Zoodles with Vegetable Bolognese by Hezzi-D’s Books and Cooks
- Spaghetti Squash Shrimp Pesto by Tasting Page
- Squash Blossom, Zucchini and Gouda Frittata by FoodieTots
- Sweet Corn Chowder with Crabmeat by The Redhead Baker
- Vegetable and Chicken Shish Kabobs by The Freshman Cook
- Chaussons aux Pommes by Food Lust People Love
- Lemon Tart by Brunch with Joy
- Raspberry Rhubarb Sweet Rolls by Grumpy’s Honeybunch