We all have dishes that remind us of our childhood. Dishes that when you smell the aroma and taste the flavors transport you to a different time and place (often a much simpler time I find). For me one of those dishes is Stuffed Tomatoes and Peppers.
This is a dish I have prepared more times than I can remember but almost always the same way. Hollow the tomatoes and peppers, cook some ground beef, par cook the rice, stuff, roast and Voila! Recently however I have become a fan of the Olivetomato.com blog which is run Elena Paravantes. We (ChefTalk.com) have no affiliation we just enjoy the recipes and writing which is entirely about Greek cooking.
The recipe is a vegetarian version of stuffed tomatoes which you can find here, The main reason I am posting this step by step of the preparation is because I find it completely different from the standard recipes. Things like using small grain rice, not par cooking the rice, tomatoes cut on the bottoms not the tops, small slits in the vegetables, no meat, fresh mint. Truly a unique approach in my opinion to an old classic. It is a fair amount of work but worth it in the end. I would welcome comments so let me know what you think.
One last thing before we start, you will have to head over to Olivetomato.com to get the recipes I am only showing you the techniques here.
Ok mis en place set.
I had to look high and low for this rice which resembles pearls. It took three different trips to the store to find this rice. Finally after going to the Mediterranean Oasis grocery store I found the rice. It even has stuffed peppers on the bag.
After getting all of the ingredients in order I cut the tops of the peppers and the BOTTOMS off the tomatoes. Not entirely sure why you cut the bottoms instead of the tops but Olivetomato.com recommends this.
Save the tops of course
Save the tomato pulp
Now make tiny slits in the vegetables but don't go all the way through.
Grate the zucchini. You should peel them but I forgot
Mix the zucchini with some green pepper, onion and grated potato
Squeeze the juice from the tomato pulp and save. You end up with three bowls Vegetable mix, tomato pulp and tomato juice.
Chop up the tomato pulp to a small dice.
Now mix the pulp with the zucchini mix and toss in some fresh herbs, olive oil and tomato paste. You also add the rice now completely uncooked. One of the most bizarre things, but the rice cooks just fine from the vegetable juices. There were a few grains that were crunchy but overall the rice had a nice texture.
Peel and cut up the potatoes and zucchini and toss with Greek oregano, salt, olive oil and fresh garlic.
Stuff the peppers and tomatoes. Then put the potatoes and zucchini around them. Add some water to the pan. This goes in the oven first for 20 min at 400. F then for 1 hour and half at 340 degrees F. Add water if the vegetables look dry.
Since you have some time on your hand clean up the dishes after all that prep (took me about an hour).
Here is a shot of the different rices. The left is small grain and the right is long grain.
This is an excellent recipe and worth the extra work. A few observations are:
- I did find a few crunchy grains of rice but nothing that would concern me.
- Still can't figure out the cutting the bottoms as opposed to the tops. My guess is that cutting the bottoms you get a stable base from the top and avoid a second cut. Usually you have to slice a little off the bottom to make them stand. Seems like an efficiency thing.
- The recipe calls for dry mint but I used fresh mint. There was a mint flavor but I would of added a bit more fresh mint.
- Can't help but think this would be perfected with the addition of lamb. /img/vbsmilies/smilies/licklips.gif
- Definitely watch the liquid while they cook it will reduce down and I had to add some water.
- Regarding the small slits in the vegetables I still can't see how they make a difference, but many small techniques add to the final product. This must be a technique that was passed down from generation to generation? Maybe I don't know.
- Lastly, if you are a fan of Greek cooking I do highly recommend the Olivetomato.com blog it has great photos and excellent recipes. All geared to a healthier approach.