Tag Archives: tomato

Greek stuffed vegetables

Recently, a friend asked me if I’d show her how to make my silverbeet and filo scroll, which of course I was delighted to do.  We gathered at her place with a couple of others, one of whom showed us her Greek stuffed vegetables, called “yemista”, for a very relaxed and fun night of cooking and chatter.   I knew The Marito would like this, so had a go at making it myself a few nights later.

Like a lot of my Italian recipes courtesy of Mamma Rosa, she made it on look and feel so I’ve done my best on quantities.  Also like a lot of our Southern Italian recipes, there are many many versions of this Greek dish, depending on the village or how it was tweaked over the years.  Often, currants and nuts – either toasted flaked almonds or toasted pine nuts – are added, particularly at Christmas.  You can also add garlic when frying off the onion, but my cooking companion, like me, doesn’t cook with garlic (her husband doesn’t like it, and neither does my father, so Mamma Rosa never cooked with it and so I don’t), and other herbs such as fresh oregano if you have it on hand.  For our vegetables we stuffed tomatoes, zucchini, and eggplant, but you could just do one of those if you prefer.  Capsicum are also often used. You can also do a meat version of this using a mince combination of your choice. I really loved the use of mint in this dish.

Ingredients
6 tomatoes
2 medium eggplant
4 medium zucchini
1 large red onion, diced
50ml olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
1 cup medium grain rice
500ml chicken stock, plus a few tablespoons extra
1 cup continental parsley leaves
1 cup mint leaves
100g feta
Salt and pepper for seasoning

Making it
1. Slice the tops off the vegetables (about 1cm from the top, maybe a little more for the eggplant) and set aside. These will be the “lids” later on

2. Using a spoon, scoop all the pulp out of the tomatoes, chop coarsely, and set the pulp aside in a bowl

3. Similarly, scoop the flesh out of the zucchini and eggplant, to form a boat shape. Leave a good rim otherwise they will collapse during cooking. Chop the flesh coarsely and set aside.

yemista (2)yemista (1)

4. Add the olive oil to a pot with the onion and a pinch of salt, and fry off on medium heat until the onion starts to soften. Add the reserved eggplant and zucchini flesh to the pot and continue to cook for a few minutes until softened, then add the tomato pulp. Cook for a few more minutes and add the rice and 250mls of stock and cook for another 5-7 minutes. Coarsely chop the parsley and mint, add to the mixture, combine and remove from the heat. Check for seasoning at this point and add if needed. Note the rice will still be on the crunchy side, don’t worry about this, it will cook in the next stage.

5. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees fan forced. Place your vegetable “boats” in a baking dish (you might need two dishes) and then loosely fill each with some of the rice mixture. Don’t pack it down or overfill (you’ll see I overfilled my tomatoes and little as a couple split) as the rice will expand during cooking. You might have a little rice mixture left, if so you can add more stock and keep cooking and turn it into a bit of quasi risotto for another day!

6. Cut the feta into small pieces and place one piece in each tomato, two or three pieces in each of the eggplant and zucchini depending on the size. Then spoon a teaspoon or two of stock into each vegetable. Next, place the “lids” on each vegetable, season to taste, and drizzle with a little olive oil on the top. Pour about half a cup of stock into the bottom of the baking dish. Put the dish in the oven and cook, uncovered, for an hour. Remove from the oven and serve, hot if you wish or at room temperature, which is typically how they are served in Greece. Delicious!

yemista (3)yemista (4)

Dimitris’ baked eggplant

eggplant 2_marked

While we were in Greece, staying in a magnificent house in Paros, a local cook Dimitris made some delicious dishes for us. One that was a hit was this baked eggplant, which I was keen to try myself when we returned home. The challenge is sourcing the same ingredients. I noticed Dimitris always used red onions for example – but the red onions there were much sweeter and more delicate than those we get in Australia. So for this dish I opted for some French eschallots, which were probably the closest thing. It also looked like he had used a different variety of eggplant – here we either get tiny Lebanese eggplants (which are too small for this recipe) or massive “standard” ones. Today I found some standard eggplants but of a petite size at an Italian grocer, and as soon as I saw them I knew they were perfect for this dish. There is a lot of oil so it is not a dish you’d have every day, but gosh it was delicious, and bought back memories of a wonderful holiday.  We had some left over and heated them up the next day, I think they were even better.  You could also do these Italian style with ricotta on top and sprinkle with fresh basil.

Ingredients
6 small eggplants
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
¼ cup continental parsley, finely chopped
180g haloumi, sliced into 12 slices
Olive oil for frying
Salt for seasoning

For the sauce
4 eschallots, finely sliced lengthways
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon raw sugar
1 can peeled tomatoes, pureed
2 tbsp olive oil

Making it
1. For the sauce, place the olive oil and eschallots in small pot and saute on medium heat until softened. Add the tomatoes, 1 cup water, salt, sugar, allow it to come to a bubble then simmer on low heat for about 30 minutes. Set aside

2. Cut each of the eggplants in half longways, then score in a criss cross fashion. Take a large heavy based frypan (mine could fit 6 halves), add olive oil such that the base of the frypan is generously covered. Place the eggplants flesh side down and cook on low to medium heat till golden, then turn and cook on skin side until softened but not collapsing. Drain on paper towels.

eggplant1_marked
3. Preheat oven to 160 degrees. Place the eggplant in an oven dish, season with salt, then sprinkle the parmesan on top. Spoon some sauce onto each of the eggplants and bake for about 20 minutes
4. Remove from oven, place one slice of haloumi on each eggplant, then return to the oven and bake for a further 20 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle over chopped parsley and serve.