Greek Yemista: Rice-Stuffed Tomatoes and Peppers

Taste Those Tomatoes! This traditional summer-and-fall Greek dish is a versatile option for any cruiser.

Greek Yemista (Rice-Stuffed Tomatoes and Peppers)
Lynda Morris Childress

Greek cuisine is adored worldwide for many reasons, primarily its creative use of fresh, seasonal ingredients to make diverse dishes. During summer and fall, the tomato reigns supreme in Greece; aboard Stressbuster, our Atlantic 70 cutter based in the Greek islands, I make good use of these luscious, ripe-red beauties whenever they're in their prime.

The word yemista in Greek means "stuffed." In this traditional summer-and-fall dish, large tomatoes are stuffed with different variations of rice-and-herb fillings. My own variation includes the addition of multicolored peppers for variety, sultanas for sweetness, pine nuts for crunch and texture, and parsley for fresh flavor. This is an ideal recipe for preparation onboard; aside from the tomatoes, peppers, and parsley, all other ingredients come from the ship's dry stores; if you can't find peppers, use tomatoes alone. While this is best made at anchor due to the long sautéing and stirring time, it can be made a day ahead or before departure for later consumption – some say this dish actually tastes better the next day. It's cruiser-versatile – in hot summer months, it can be eaten cold or at room temperature; when the weather cools off in the fall, it can be reheated or eaten straight from the oven, piping hot. Aboard Stressbuster, this unusual, tasty dish tops the list of recipes most often requested by our charter guests. Kali orexi! (Good appetite!)

Greek Yemista (Rice-Stuffed Tomatoes and Peppers)
Ingredients:
6 large, ripe tomatoes
1 each: yellow, orange, red, green bell pepper
Salt, sugar
Olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
1 cup round-grain rice
1 12-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 to 2 cups water
Parsley (generous handful), minced
3/4 cup sultana raisins
1/2 cup pine nuts
Salt and pepper, to taste

Steps:

  • Wash tomatoes and peppers and slice off tops with a sharp knife. Set tops aside. Hollow out the tomatoes with a melon-baller or teaspoon and set pulp aside. Seed peppers. Add salt and a pinch of sugar to each hollowed-out vegetable.
  • Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a non-stick sauté pan and sauté the onions till translucent.
  • Add rice and stir to coat with oil. Add canned tomatoes and about 1/2 cup of water; stir.
  • Salt and pepper to taste and simmer over medium-low heat for about 30 minutes, or until rice is soft enough to chew, stirring very often and adding more water as needed. (Mixture should stay very moist.)
  • When rice is ready, remove from heat and stir in parsley, raisins, and pine nuts. Fill the hollow tomatoes/peppers with the rice mixture, replace their lids, and arrange in an oiled baking dish. Give the whole lot a good swirl of olive oil and add about 1/2 cup water, along with the reserved tomato pulp.
  • Bake at 375 degrees F until tomatoes and peppers are tender and skins begin to brown and/or blister, about 45 minutes to one hour, adding more water to pan bottom if necessary.

Serves six to eight.