Tomatoes & Peppers Stuffed with Dill Rice (Yemista)
An occasionally vegan entree in Greek restaurants, tomatoes and bell peppers stuffed with herb-scented rice is a savory summery entree. Really any vegetable will do, such as eggplants and even hollowed out zucchini, but tomatoes are a necessity for the savory flavor their flesh adds to the filling. These are great served hot or at room temperature too, and easy to double for light lunch leftovers.
Tip: It’s worth buying an extra tomato or pepper or two; the filling is generous and depending on the size and shape or your vegetables the filling can be stretched far.
3 lbs. red ripe tomatoes (about 6-8 large tomatoes)
1 lb green or red bell peppers (3-4 average sized peppers) or young zucchini
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 large white onion, peeled and finely diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup uncooked long grain white rice
1 cup vegetable broth
1 large carrot, peeled and finely grated
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh dill
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt or more to taste
freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
Extra olive oil for drizzling, about 1 teaspoon per vegetable stuffed
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Lightly oil or spray with cooking spray an 9 x 11 x 3 inch baking pan. Even better, try fitting your tomatoes and peppers into baking pans first and see if they’ll all fit snug side by side; if not find an additional baking pan for all of the vegetables.
Wash tomatoes and peppers. Carefully cut the tops off the tomatoes and peppers, creating a lid about 1/2 inch thick and set aside tops. Remove the core from the peppers and discard seeds. Use a spoon (a serrated grapefruit spoon is great) and gently hollow out tomatoes leaving about a 1/4 inch thick wall and reserve the pulp. Finely chop, grate or squish the pulp into a thick liquid and set aside. Lightly salt the inside and outside of the hollowed out peppers and tomatoes. If using zucchini, slice a lid ⅓ off the top lengthwise and use a tablespoon to hollow out the center; finely chop the pulp and salt the inside of the zucchini. 1 1/2 cup veg pulp
2. Heat ¼ cup of the olive oil in a large sauce pan over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and fry for 2 minutes, then stir in rice and fry for another 2 minutes. Add vegetable broth, stir and cover and cook for 12-14 minutes until liquid is mostly absorbed. Remove the mixture from heat. It will be wet and the rice grains will be only partially cooked.
3. In a large bowl combine rice mixture with the tomato pulp (and zucchini if using), grated carrot, chopped mint, dill, oregano, salt, pepper, and walnuts. Taste filling and add more salt if necessary. Drain tomatoes and peppers of any excess liquid, stand upright in baking dish and fill 3/4 of the way with rice mixture; take care not to overfill as the rice will continue to expand during baking and may burst the tomatoes. Replace tops of tomatoes and peppers with their “lids”. Drizzle tops of vegetables with remaining olive oil and sprinkle with a little more salt. Carefully pour 1/2 cup of water around only the sides of the vegetables in the pan. Bake for an additional 60 minutes or until tops of tomatoes are well browned and rice filling is tender. Serve hot or a room temperature.