Gemista or Yemista – Stuffed vegetables oven baked – Greek traditional vegan recipe
Yemista or Gemista recipe

Gemista or Yemista – Stuffed vegetables oven baked – Greek traditional vegan recipe

Gemista or Yemista, is a delicious traditional Greek food with oven-baked vegetables stuffed with rice that the whole family loves! When Gemista is in your oven, your kitchen will be filled with wonderful smells, aromas, and incomparable taste of this wonderful vegan food.

gemista recipe
Gemista recipe
How to stack the vegetables and potatoes on a medium size baking pan (36 x 24,5 cm)
Yemista4
How to stack the vegetables and potatoes on a big sized baking pan (45 x 38 cm)

What ingredients to use and what not to use for Gemista / Yemista

When it comes to food we all have different tastes and likes. And even so, our tastes can change over time. I know it first hand as my taste in food has changed a lot since I was little. The following recipe I have developed after many years of personal experimentation with Gemista and is the winner of my heart. I prefer vegan Gemista (or “Orfana” as we call them in Greece) over the version with minced meat.

olive oil

Ingredients I like to use for Gemista / Yemista

Over the years I discovered that the combination of dill, parsley, and spearmint goes wonderful with rice and even more so with this particular food. I would urge you to try it even if you do not like spearmint as a herb. When I was little I had no special love for spearmint but growing up I started to like it for its freshness and its special aroma.

I love having stuffed zucchini with my Gemista because not only do they taste great, but their filling enhances the flavor of the rice stuffing. I prefer the zucchini filling as well as fresh tomatoes, to be finely chopped and not in the form of puree.

Do not skimp on garlic, it is one of the basic ingredients and this amount that I suggest below may seem like a lot to you but it is not for this amount of rice that we want to flavor.

I only add fresh tomatoes in the filling on purpose because the pulp or the canned tomato sauce hardens the rice and it is not cooked properly in the oven. For the same reason, I do not add any tomato sauce or paste or puree to the baking tray. I only use a little water and olive oil which is closer to a cooking method named confit method. Trust me and try them as I suggest they are delicious!

Ingredients I do NOT like to use for Gemista / Yemista

I do not like to add the inside of the eggplants in the filling because they sweeten the rice, without flavoring it. They tend to pull all the oil and spices on them and leave the rice without seasoning. This does not happen if we saute the eggplants first but it is not worth it in my opinion.

You may stuff the eggplants if you want, just do not add their pulp with the rice filling.

I also do not like to add smoked or sweet paprika because it sweetens the rice and does not go well with spearmint in my palate.

I do not add tomato paste or tomato juice or canned tomato puree to the food because the vegetables and potatoes are becoming stiff and are not cook properly.

I do not like to add chopped green peppers in the filling either. The filling gets flavored from its surrounding vegetables and since we stuff green bell peppers anyway we do not need to add more to the filling.

3 important tips for perfect oven baked Gemista / Yemista

1.

Sauté the rice
saute rice

Gemista, although it is a traditional Greek dish, has a lot of room for experimentation and there are many variations of the original recipe and how it is prepared. Sautéing the rice with the onions is optional but very important for developing flavor and acquiring the perfect cooking. I mention 2 onions in my recipe. One, you can add in the filling raw if you so prefer but blend it a little with your kitchen machine. And the second onion you can finely chop and sauté it with the rice and olive oil.

If you do not sauté the rice, it may take longer to cook, which will result in the vegetables being cooked on the outside but the rice is unevenly cooked or uncooked on the inside. In this case, you will need to cover them with an aluminum foil or a lid and leave it for about 15 minutes more until the rice is cooked. Sautéing also helps the onion lose its “edge”.

2.

Plenty of olive oil
olive oil

In order to cook the Gemista to perfection, we need to oil all the vegetables very well on the outside. In general, you should know that Gemista loves olive oil so let’s not be stingy and add plenty for a nice rich taste. Add a little olive oil in your hands and oil all the vegetables on the outside after you have filled them.

3.

Very good seasoning
good seasoning2

This dish needs very good seasoning because after it is cooked, it will be hard to season it all the way through. I salt it 3 times in total to be well salted.

Start the seasoning with a pinch of salt when we sauté the rice with the onion, the second time we add another pinch of salt and pepper after we gather all the ingredients in a bowl and mix well. For the third time, lightly salt the inside of the vegetables just before adding the filling.

gemista recipe

Why add breadcrumbs on top of the Gemista / Yemista?

We add breadcrumbs on top of Gemista because it prevents the vegetable lids from browning too much and it also looks good! Nevertheless, it is optional.

What goes with Yemista?

Yemista loves feta and freshly baked bread. Sometimes people might also eat it with Tzatziki which also goes well with a rice dish. Whatever you choose to accompany your Gemista with, I’m sure it will taste awesome! (“Yemista” is how it sounds like in Greek and “Gemista” is how we spell it in Greek).

Gemista me feta
Yemista pin
Yemista or Gemista recipe

Gemista or Yemista – Stuffed vegetables oven baked – Greek traditional vegan recipe

Prep: 1h | Cook: 1h | Total: 2h | Serves: 8
Recipe for a big baking pan (45x38cm)

Ingredients:

  • 7 large firm tomatoes, for stuffing
  • 5 medium green bell peppers, for stuffing
  • 5 zucchini cut in half, for stuffing
  • 350g short-grain rice, washed well
  • 2 large onions, finely chopped or blended
  • 2 Carrots, grated
  • 5-6 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 5 potatoes, cut into wedges
  • ¾ of a cup Olive oil, divided
  • 1 handful of parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 handful of dill, finely chopped
  • 1 handful of Spearmint, dried or fresh finely chopped
  • Salt /Pepper
  • A handful of breadcrumbs (Optional)

Instructions:

  1. Finely chop the onions, garlic and wash all the vegetables.
  2. Cut the top from the tomatoes and peppers which we will use as a lid.
  3. Empty the tomatoes with a teaspoon and keep their filling inside in a separate bowl.
  4. Cut the zucchini in half and from each half cut a thin slice that we will use as a lid.
  5. Empty the zucchini with the special tool or with the back of a teaspoon and keep their filling inside in a separate bowl.
  6. Add the inside of the zucchini and the inside of the tomatoes in your kitchen machine little, by little and use the pulse function, if your machine has it, because we want them in small pieces and not pulp.
  7. Empty the bell peppers with a knife or spoon.
  8. Wash the rice well, by changing 3 waters.
  9. Saute the chopped onion over high heat with 3 Tbsp olive oil and then add the rice, salt, and pepper sautéing them all together for 2-3 minutes.
  10. Grate the carrots and add them in a large bowl together with the chopped parsley, dill, crushed garlic, the inside of the tomatoes and zucchini that we passed through the kitchen machine, the pinch of mint, salt, pepper and the sauteed rice.
  11. Mix well all the ingredients.
  12. Add salt and pepper to a small bowl and mix them (about 2 tsp of salt and 1 tsp of pepper). Take a little with your index finger and put it inside the vegetables with a circular movement and then add the filling.
  13. After we have filled all the vegetables, we cut the potatoes into wedges.
  14. Season the potatoes with salt and pepper, add olive oil and toss them in the baking tray or hide them in-between the stuffed vegetables. Pour in the pan 1/3 of a cup, water, and ½ cup olive oil.
  15. Sprinkle bread crumbs on top of every vegetable (optional).
  16. Bake at 200C / 400F in a preheated oven for about 1 hour.

Notes:

  • The rice needs good washing because by doing so we get rid of the conservatives that are added while packaging it.
  • If you do not sauté the rice, then you might need to use aluminum foil to cover the entire tray after the vegetables have been cooked on the outside. 15 minutes are enough to cook the rice.
  • If you use a medium-size baking tray, then you do not need to add any water to bake Gemista. If you use a big size, then it’s good to add a little water (1/3 of a cup) for the potatoes. 
Gemista nutrition facts

Did you make this recipe? Or are you planning to make it? Let me know in the comments below, tag me on Instagram @freshpiato or show me your photos on Pinterest!

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