Yemista: Greek Stuffed Tomatoes & Peppers with Potatoes

Yemista means "to stuff" in Greek. Baked tomatoes and peppers, stuffed with rice and ground meat seems to be a ubiquitous meal at most Greek tavernas. Yemista makes the most of summer vegetables.  In Greece yemista is made from whatever is freshest at the market, from the farmers, or from their own gardens. The most common are tomatoes and peppers. Everyone’s favorite is usually the tomatoes. Yemista makes for a soul satisfying meals, yet light, wholesome, and allergy friendly. No eggs, no gluten, no milk or cheese. A simple dish that everyone can enjoy with no worries. This recipe can modified in what meat you choose and can left out for vegetarian.

Usually, the tops are saved to use as caps in the baking process. When I am done coring out the vegetables, they are not pretty enough to save. I have found that topping of the stuffed vegetables with oiled potatoes works best: keeping the filling moist and crisping up the potatoes. Traditional, the potatoes are peeled, but I prefer to keep the skins on for addition nutrition and interest. I was looking forward to making stuffed zucchini, too. However, every farmer said that this summer proved too dry to successfully grow any. I cannot emphasis how important it is to procure ground meat from your local butcher. They will grind any meat you choose, quickly. I find that meat from the butcher is more lean, tastier, and you can trust it. The only item (besides salt, pepper, sugar) used for this recipe that I had to buy from a traditional grocery store was the rice. I used a pearl rice, a Valencian type of medium grain rice from the Latino section. Even the Yukon gold potatoes I bought from a local farmer. Be aggressive with seasoning. Oregano and cinnamon are quintessential Greek. In particular, there is something about the synergy of cinnamon, meat, and tomato are a basis of many Greek dishes. Count on 3 stuffed tomatoes/peppers per person for the heartiest of eaters. Makes 6-8 servings.

  • 10-14 medium Tomatoes (if no peppers, use 16-18)
  • 4-6 small/med Peppers, sweet bell, of your choice (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon Sugar
  • 1 medium Onion, yellow, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 - 2 lbs Ground Meat (Beef, Pork, Lamb, &/or Turkey/Chicken) I like beef + pork best.
  • 1 cup Rice, medium grain, uncooked
  • Handful Parsley, fresh, chopped (curly or Italian/flat)
  • To taste Salt (generous), Pepper
  • ½ teaspoon Cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons Greek oregano (fresh or dry)
  • 4-6 medium Russet / Idaho Potatoes, largely diced (reds will burn)
  • ¼ cup Olive Oil
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C).
  2. Slice a piece from the top of each tomato and remove the, liquid, pulp, and seeds with a teaspoon. Blend, chop, or process the pulp and put into a large bowl, saving all the liquid. Arrange tomatoes in an oiled roasting pan and sprinkle ½ teaspoon sugar into each one. Slice the top off the pepper and use the teaspoon to remove the seeds and membrane. Place the peppers in the roasting pan.
  3. Brown the ground meat in a lightly sprayed large saute pan over medium heat. Frequently turn and break up with a spatula until all pink is gone. Transfer to the large bowl with the tomato liquids, straining out and disposing of any excess fat as needed. Using the same fry pan, saute the onion until translucent over medium heat. Add the cooked onions to the mixing bowl.
  4. Add rice, parsley, salt, pepper, oregano, and cinnamon to the large bowl with tomato liquids, sauteed meat, and onions. Taste and adjust for correct seasoning. I find that a little extra salt is needed since the vegetables absorb
  5. Fill the tomatoes and peppers, leaving room for the rice to swell and for the potatoes.
  6. Stuff any extra filling in the pan, around the bottoms of the vegetables.
  7. At this time, have the diced potatoes tossed with olive oil, salt, & pepper. Place in spaces in between the vegetables and put on top of the filled veggies.
  8. Tent with aluminum foil. Bake for 45 minutes. Remove foil and bake for an additional 45 minutes. Remove from oven once the potatoes are browned. Allow to cool at least 15 minutes before digging in. Keeps well as leftovers. Reheats with even more flavor.

This is part of Food Network's Summer Fest. Check out The FN Dish. The seasonal produce we are focusing on is the glorious tomato! Here are other delicious features on tomatoes:

Big Girls Small Kitchen: Seared Chicken with Cherry Tomato Pan Sauce
Haute Apple Pie: Heirloom Tomato & Three Cheese Tart
What's Gaby Cooking: Zebra Tomato and Burrata Crostini
Zaika Zabardast: Balsamic Roasted Tomato-Basil Ice
And Love It Too: Healthy Lunchbox - Garlic Tomato Basil Pesto Bruchetta
Chez Us: Roasted Tomato Sauce
Daily*Dishin: Refreshing and Rustic - Tuscan Bread Salad
Glory Foods: Fresh Tomato Salsa
Dishin and Dishes: Tomato Tart Tatin
The Purple Cook: Eggplant Parmesan Caprese Salad
I Am Mommy: Tomato Crudite
Cooking With My Kid: Gluten-Free White Bean Chive Cakes with Heirloom Tomatoes
FN Dish: Easy Tomato Appetizers
Add a Pinch: Simple Caprese Salad Skewers
Sweet Life Bake: Salsa Cruda
Virtually Homemade: Farfalle with Roasted Tomato Sauce, Bacon and Shaved Romano
Dixie Chik Cooks: Tomato, Basil and Olive Bruschetta
Mooshu Jenne: Sun Burst Tomato Pasta
Napa Farmhouse 1885: Book Club, Tomatoes and a Recipe for Chicken Provençal?
Cooking With Elise: Tomato Parmesan Biscuits
From My Corner of Saratoga: Cooking from the Garden - Bruschetta Pizza
Fritos and Foie Gras: Tomato Terrine
Creative Culinary: Fresh and Savory Tomato Pie
Big Apple Nosh: Caprese Salad/Tomato Carnage
Spices and Aroma: Quick and Easy Paneer Curry
Zaika Zabardast: Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto Breakfast Rolls

-Erin Swing
The Sensitive Epicure