Yemista are one of my favorite Greek dishes that my mother makes for us. Growing up, it was an argument over who got the last tomato. Yemista can be made two ways, with or without meat. In this recipe, we will be making the meaty version, using ground beef and pork. The two combined is absolutely delicious. If you have never had Yemista, the rice stuffing in each stuffed vegetable has a unique flavor on its own. The the zucchini and squash take on their own flavor, the eggplant its own flavor, and the two most popular stuffed vegetables, the bell pepper and tomato, my favorites, take on their own flavor. I always make extra stuffing, which is the case in this recipe, because the stuffing, by itself, is so delicious, so we enjoy that as well, and share with others, too. I have taken photos of the different steps in this dish, and I have to be honest with you and tell you that it will take you a while to make it, but it is really one of the most delicious Greek dishes that you will ever have, and so well worth the work that you put into it. If you have small children, like me, it is best to get someone to help you watch them, or do this when they are napping, so that you can also enjoy the experience. This recipe will make a very large pan, maybe turkey roaster size, which you can have for dinner, save some for lunch, and share with family and friends. If you have any questions as you are reading this, before beginning cooking, please email me, and I will do my best to help you. Good luck. Here we go…….
Step1- Decide which vegetables you want to use (In this recipe, what fit in my HUGE roasting pan (about the size of a turkey roasting pan) was 2 eggplants, 6 tomatoes, 6 bell peppers, 2 yellow squash, and 4 zucchinis cut in half to make 8. Wash all of your vegetables, and cut the tops off to make a “lid” or a “cover” (your “lid” or “cover” should be about 1/2 inch thick, so don’t only cut the stem off, cut some of the vegetable, too). Next, you will need to “scoop” out the inside of the vegetable, to make a hollow “bowl”. PLEASE NOTE: IN ORDER TO NOT BREAK THROUGH THE SKIN OF YOUR VEGETABLES, ONLY scoop out the very middle of your vegetables, leaving about 1/3 inch wall all around your vegetable, meaning, around the sides and the bottom (I know it will be hard to tell on the bottom how much you hollowed out, but use your best judgement). Please note, bell peppers DO NOT HAVE an inside pulp for you take out, they only have a white membrane that you will throw away. To make “scooping” easier, use a melon baller to remove inside of your vegetables. If you do not have a mellon baller, a spoon will work, too. Remove “lids” and place to the side of each vegetable. Once you start stuffing them, THEN replace your lids, and this way you will know which ones are filled and which ones are still empty.
Step 2- There is no specific amount of vegetable pulp you need to have, but you will have an average of about 6 cups. Using a blender, food processor, or immersion blender, puree’ your vegetables to resemble a thick tomato puree’, and put on side.
Step 3- Time to make the rice stuffing. In this step, I will stop in between the recipe and talk you through it as we go along.
1 pound lean ground beef
1 pound lean ground pork
2 sweet, yellow, or white onions, chopped
3 teaspoons garlic powder
sea salt and black pepper
In your large pot, on medium high heat, add your ground beef, ground pork, onions, and garlic powder and saute’ everything until onions are nice and soft, and meat is browned. Salt and pepper your mixture, starting from the left to the right of your pan. As your beef and pork are cooking, start breaking it up as much as you can as you are sautéing it, to make your ground meats into smaller pieces.
vegetable pulp that you just pureed
6 cups water
9 teaspoons vegetable or chicken base or 9 bouillon cubes
1 large can (18 ounces or 1 pound 2 ounces) tomato paste
juice of 3 large lemons
3 teaspoons dried mint (or 9 teaspoons fresh mint, finely chopped, minced, or snipped with scissors or kitchen shears)
3 teaspoons dried dill (or 9 teaspoons fresh dill finely chopped, minced, or snipped with scissors or kitchen shears)
large handful fresh parsley, finely chopped, minced, or snipped with scissors or kitchen shears (I do not find that dried parsley maintains its flavor, which is why I use fresh in this recipe, because this taste is much-needed)
3 cups parboiled rice
1 tablespoon to stuff your vegetables
Next, place all above ingredients in your pan with your meat mixture, and cook on medium for about 5-10 minutes, letting flavors combine. Remove from heat, and pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Now it is time to start stuffing your vegetables. Bring your vegetable pan next to your meat mixture pan. Using a tablespoon, place as much mixture as you can into each vegetable, stopping at about 1/2 from the top, to leave room for the rice to “expand” while it finishes cooking. In order for you to know which vegetables are stuffed, please remember to place their lids next to them, and replace them once they are stuffed. You will probably have leftover stuffing, which is wonderful, because it is so delicious, and can also be served alongside your stuffed vegetables. (Although we are dealing with the same ingredients here, everything tastes different). Place your remaining rice mixture on medium/low heat, covered, for about 10 to 15 minutes, checking for doneness, and leave on longer if needed, until your rice is cooked. Back to your vegetables.
Step 4- Once you are finished stuffing them, there is one more step before putting them into the oven, and that is to season the outside of each vegetable.
bowl with extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and black pepper
Dip your pastry brush into your oil, and with all your vegetable lids on, carefully dab each part of each vegetable (or you can even drizzle the olive oil on top of each vegetable). Next, season your vegetables with a little salt on pepper, and now you place in middle of oven rack and bake it for about an hour and a half, checking it every 30 minutes, just to make sure the tops are not burning. If your vegetables happen to be turning TOO brown on top, then you can loosely cover your pan with aluminum foil, meaning you just place a foil sheet on top, without tucking it underneath to seal your pan. Once your Yemista are done, remove from oven, let them rest, and they can either be served warm, or room temperature. Congratulations and enjoy the fruits of your labor, and please remember to join my Facebook page, and send me your pictures. Congratulations if you made this dish. You deserve to relax. 🙂