There are so many things that I enjoy eating that I have never made myself and stuffed peppers are among those things. I know that Shack had not had them before would love to try them and yet, they have never been attempted in this house. For example, after 17 years of being asked to make veal parmesan , I have never made that for him either so, clearly, I am not really the fabulous, considerate person that I like to think I am.
Regardless, I am making him stuffed peppers now so better late than never, right?
A million years ago and in another life, I spent quite a bit of time living and working in Greece and so I have eaten my share of stuffed vegetables. To be perfectly honest, my memories of gemista eaten in Greece are not overly fond - they would usually let these things, along with the pastistio and moussaka, sit out on the counter all day in the sweltering heat and eat them at room temperature. Room temperature in June in Athens is about 340F and because I am a crazy Canadian, I don't really like to eat meat dishes that have sat out on the counter for a day or two in that sort of heat. Now, I have had great stuffed peppers in Toronto since we are lucky to have an excellent Greektown and I have also had them lovingly prepared by the grandmothers of various Greek friends over the years. It's not that the gemista served in Greece weren't tasty, they were just ticking time bombs of gastro intestinal armeggaddon and best avoided whenever possible.
I didn't really follow a particular recipe either because they are pretty simple and I know what is supposed to go in there so I just read tons of recipes and then set out to make them. One thing I do remember from the time I spent living in Athens was that you allow for 2 tbls of rice per pepper. I am not sure who's grandmother told me that anymore but it gives a nice ratio of meat to rice so it must have been a real memory and not just a retsina fuelled food dream.
The sauce is really oily, which is a very Greek thing so be prepared for that but it's olive oil so it's good for you. You can bathe in it, use it to moisturize your hair and your skin and so eating the odd dish that is heavy on the stuff has to be good for you from time to time. The potatoes are all olive oily and soft and delicious and are my favourite part of the dish.
The funny thing was that Shack and The Kid said they liked them and would like them again but they ate all the meat and left the peppers which just meant more peppers for me - they are so weird.
also called Yemista
1 lb ground beef
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 cup olive oil plus a couple of tbls for the sauce
1/2 cup parsely, chopped
greek oregano (about 1 tbls or to taste)
3/4 cup cup tomato puree (1/2 cup for the rice/meat and 1/4 cup for the sauce)
a heaping 1/2 cup arborio rice (10 tbls to be exact but a heaping 1/2 cup will do)
salt and pepper
2 yukon gold potatoes
5 peppers (I used three yellow and two red - I loathe cooked green peppers)
Heat the olive oil over med low heat and cook the onions and garlic until they get really, really soft - about ten minutes. Add the meat and cook until no longer pink. Then throw in the parsley, oregano,1/2 cup tomato puree and the rice and let that simmer for another 5 minutes or so until some of the liquid evaporates and it thickens up just a bit. Remove from the heat and let it sit for about five minutes before stuffing the peppers. Taste and season as needed with salt, pepper, more oregano if you like.
Meanwhile, cut the top off of your peppers (if you can leave them connected on one side so you can flip it open and closed without completely cutting it off, that is best), scoop out all the seeds and membrane to prepare it for stuffing and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 375F
Spoon the rice/meat mixture into the peppers and cover each one back up with the pepper lid.
Put the peppers into a baking dish so that they fit snuggly in and hold each other up. Cut your potatoes into wedges and fit them in around the bottoms of the peppers.
Mix the remaining 1/4 cup tomato puree with about 1/2 cup of water and a couple of tbls of olive oil and a pinch of kosher salt. Pour that carefully around the bottom of the baking dish. You want the liquid to come up about an inch so if it's needed you can add a bit more water.
Bake the stuffed peppers for between 75 to 90 minutes. Check at the 75 minute mark to see if the rice is cooked yet. They are done when the rice is nice and soft. I cooked mine for about an hour and 45 minutes and they were perfect.
Serve with some of the delicious, silky potato wedges, flip back the pepper lid and sprinkle some feta over the top of each one.