Vegetarian Yemista (Greek Stuffed Peppers)
For New Year’s Eve, we had a couple of friends over for dinner. I did a full on Mediterranean dinner including baba ganoush (eggplant dip); hummus; dolmades (store bought); kefalograviera cheese soaked in olive oil, lemon juice, and sea salt; olives (from Stage and purchased by our guests); butter fried pita; and, of course, the stuffed peppers… and a couple bottles of red wine.
4 medium red peppers
1/4 cup olive oil
5 tbsp rice
1/2 large onion, chopped fine
2 medium tomatos, chopped and including the liquid
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp spearmint, dried and crumbled
1/4 cup parsley, fresh and minced
1/4 cup pistachios
1/4 cup dried Greek figs, chopped
1/4 cup kefalograviera cheese, cut into tiny cubes (parmesan can be substituted)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tbsp tomato paste
8 bamboo skewers
Combine all ingredients except the water, tomato paste, and second 1/4 cup of olive oil. (I recommend preparing the stuffing the day before and leaving it in the fridge over night: it really lets the flavors mingle.)
Cut off tops of peppers (move tops to the side – they will be used as lids); remove seeds and membrane.
Spoon stuffing into peppers, packing tight after every spoonful.
Place the peppers in a pan or casserole dish (the tighter the fit, the better the peppers will hold their shape); cover with matching tops and secure with skewers, piercing only the top of the pepper and the stuffing. (I placed the casserole dish on a pan in the over to avoid messy spill overs.)
Combine the water, olive oil, tomato paste, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Pour this mixture around the peppers.
Bake in a preheated 375°F oven for 1 3/4 hours; the peppers may be slightly blackened. Remove from oven and let sit for 1/2 hour before serving.