Stuffed casserole peppers
Although “gemista” (stuffed oven-baked vegetables) are served in every Greek house during the summer, with infinite variations, stuffed casserole peppers can be made all year round. The only difference is that in winter I prefer to fill long red sweet Florina peppers, while in summer I use classic bell peppers or, even better if you can find them, sweet dolma peppers, which are small and thin skinned, ideal for stuffing as their Turkish name suggests.
I first tried these peppers made by my mother-in-law, who in turn learned this recipe from her own mother-in-law when she moved to Athens from Turkey. Stuffed peppers cook much faster on the stovetop and turn out juicy, shiny and silky. The secret of this dish’s success is to allow the bottom of the pepper to caramelize, leading to a dark, sticky, spicy sauce, without allowing it to burn of course. To achieve this, requires patience: once the rice is done and the water in the pot has all but evaporated, allow the peppers gently simmer in the oil and juices left for 5-6 minutes over a low heat.
This recipe makes a large quantity, to be cooked in two pots and shared over Sunday lunch. I actually squeeze them all into a large oblong casserole dish I have and rarely split them in two. You can do half the amount if you are only cooking for a few people, but you’ll probably regret not having the leftovers. Besides, peppers are the easiest and fastest vegetable to stuff. You could also add firm tomatoes, but the truth is that I prefer these in the oven. I wash the rice and soak it from the night before. If I forget, it’s no big deal as the taste will turn out the same. However, it’s a good habit to adopt, as soaking eliminate most of the arsenic contained in rice.
You can serve the peppers lukewarm with feta cheese and olives or even cold, as an appetizer. We also eat them as a side, as a snack, if we ever had any left the next day, we would probably eat them for breakfast.
Stuffed casserole peppers – Recipe
- 14 peppers
- 1 glass of short grain rice, washed and soaked
- 4 onions, minced
- 4 tomatoes, minced
- 2/3 glass olive oil
- 60 Gr. raisins
- 3 tbsp min leaves, finely chopped
- 2 tsp allspice, ground
- Juice from 1 lemon
- Half a glass of water, hot
In a large frying pan, gently sauté the onion over low heat with half the oil and a pinch of salt. Stir regularly and simmer until it becomes a paste, about 10 minutes. During this time, cut the lids off the peppers and remove any seeds and white membranes. Once the onion is cooked, add the rice and stir. Let it soften for another 3-4 minutes. Meanwhile, combine the tomatoes, raisins, mint, allspice and lemon in a bowl. Add the onion and rice to the bowl and mix well. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
Fill your peppers with a tablespoon, one by one and place them in the pot. Just fill to the brim without pushing down on the stuffing and cover with the lid. Drizzle the rest of the olive oil over them, add the hot water, cover and let them cook and soften over medium heat. In about 20-25 minutes, the rice will be done and the peppers will have softened. Remove the lid and simmer to allow the water to evaporate. Once there is only oil and cooking juices left at the bottom of the pan, let them caramelize over a very low heat. As soon as the sauce turns brown, remove from the heat immediately so that it doesn’t burn and turn bitter. Serve the peppers lukewarm or cold.