Stuffed Tomatoes, Peppers and Grape Leaves


Greek summer without pans full of stuffed tomatoes and peppers is unthinkable! Look for large, firm tomatoes that aren't too watery and remember to season all the vegetables with a sprinkling of salt and sugar. To find some of the artisinal Greek products you'll need to make this, visit my online shop here, where you'll discover a host of lovingly curated Greek ingredients.

Ingredients

  • 6 large firm, ripe tomatoes
  • 6 large green bell peppers
  • Salt to taste
  • Pinch of sugar
  • cup extra-virgin olive oil plus more for drizzling over vegetables before and after they bake
  • 6 large onions finely chopped or grated *
  • 3 garlic cloves very finely chopped
  • 1 cup medium-grain rice preferably Greek rice, such as the Carolina variety grown in N. Greece
  • 2/3 cup white wine
  • 1/2 cup dark seedless raisins
  • ½ cup toasted pine nuts or coarsely chopped blanched almonds
  • ¾ cup water or more if needed
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1 cup fresh chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 cup fresh chopped mint or half a cup mint and half a cup pennyroyal)
  • 1 cup fresh chopped dill or wild fennel
  • 2 - 3 potatoes peeled and cut into 1-inch/2.5 cm wide rectangular chunks

Instructions

  1. Wash the vegetables. Take a very sharp knife and slice off the top of each tomato and each pepper. Keep each vegetable and cap together.
  2. With a teaspoon, gently scoop out the pulp of each tomato, being careful not to tear the outer skin. Leave a shell thick enough to hold stuffing (about ½ inch or 1.3 cm.). Pulse the pulp in the bowl of a food processor until smooth. Set aside.
  3. Carefully remove the tops of the peppers, leaving the stems in tact; remove the peppers’ seeds with a spoon. If desired, using a paring knife, trim away the inner ribs, which can be tough when cooked.
  4. Sprinkle a little salt and a touch of sugar inside the cavity of all the hollowed out vegetables.
  5. In a large heavy skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil and sauté the onions until translucent and soft, about 10 minutes over medium heat. Stir while cooking. Add the rice and stir frequently for 15 to 20 minutes, until lightly browned. Stir in the garlic. Add tomato pulp, white wine, and water. Reduce heat, cover skillet, and simmer for 8 – 10 minutes, until rice is softened but not cooked and most of the liquid is absorbed. (The mixture should be moist.) Season stuffing with salt and pepper; toss in herbs, raisins and pine nuts.
  6. Preheat the oven to 350F / 180C. Stuff the vegetables with rice filling and crown with their own caps. Place in a baking pan. Drizzle remaining olive oil over the vegetables, cover with parchment then aluminum foil, and bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, until vegetables are soft and blistery and rice is cooked and soft. Baste with pan juices during baking if necessary. Serve hot or cold.

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