Greek Stuffed Vegetables 🍅🍆🌶
Having just returned from a fabulous visit to Greece, I am motivated to share some more Greek recipes. There are several Greek dishes that I have already posted in my blogs like souvlaki, Greek-styled green beans, lamb chops, tzatziki, Greek salad, pastitsio, lamb kleftiko, spanakopita and tiropita, but one of my FAVORITES, which is long overdue, is Greek stuffed vegetables. Summer is the perfect time of the year for this delicious meal, as our gardens and the markets are full of fresh produce. The aroma of dill, parsley, onions, and garlic perfume the air. When making stuffed vegetables, I like to stuff tomatoes, peppers, zucchinis, and eggplants. Not only is the overall flavor enhanced by using multiple vegetables, but the presentation is also more striking resulting from the variety of colors and shapes of the different produce.
There are a few things to consider when selecting your produce. Be sure to select tomatoes that have a relatively flat bottom so they can sit stably in the baking dish. Select zucchinis in sizes that are large enough to accommodate stuffing but small enough to make individual-sized "boats". Select eggplants on the small side to minimize the number of contained seeds and make for reasonable individual-sized portions. Peppers can either be selected to lay flat or to stand upright, depending on the pepper variety you desire.
I typically make my stuffed peppers incorporating some ground beef because I have a house full of omnivores, but stuffed vegetables can certainly be prepared vegetarian-style, using only rice and veggies. I, also, typically use rice, but orzo is a delicious substitute for rice, for those who prefer it.
Greek Stuffed Vegetables recipe
1/2 lb. ground beef
1/2 cup uncooked rice
1 onion, diced
6 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 cup chopped parsley, chopped
1/2 cup dill, chopped
1 can stewed tomatoes (14.5 oz)
1/2 can tomato paste
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 stick of butter, melted
insides of tomatoes, zucchini, and eggplant; grated
salt, black pepper, and dried oregano; to taste
Wash the vegetables well and cut off, BUT SAVE, their tops. Core out the fleshy insides of the tomatoes, zucchinis, and eggplants into a large bowl and reserve. Discard the insides of the peppers as they are all seeds and ribs and therefore don't need to be added to the filling. Arrange the hollowed-out vegetables in your baking dishes. Drizzle the insides of the vegetables with olive oil and sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper and a little salt.
Grate the fleshy insides of the tomatoes, zucchinis, and eggplants on a box grater. In a large bowl, mix together the ground beef, rice, onion, garlic, parsley, dill, stewed tomatoes, tomato paste, olive oil, butter, and grated vegetables. Season with salt, pepper, and dried oregano. Mix well until thoroughly combined.
With a spoon, fill the hollowed-out vegetables with this mixture until shy of full, as the rice will expand as it cooks. Drizzle a touch of olive oil over top. Replace the tops of the vegetables.
Add a little water to the bottom of the baking pan. Place into a pre-heated 350 F oven. Bake uncovered for 1.5 hours. Towards the end of the bake consider loosely covering with foil to prevent veggies from burning.
When done let them rest briefly. Serve with warm crusty bread, chunks of feta cheese, and Greek olives.
If you find that you have extra raw FILLING, then you can freeze it in a container for easy future use. While the filling freezes very well, the vegetables get mushy if frozen. I've tried freezing stuffed vegetables with the vegetables BOTH in the raw-unbaked state and in the already-baked state. I wasn't happy with the result in either case. Both ways, I felt the vegetables were mushy. But no need to despair, already-baked leftover stuffed vegetables can be placed in the refrigerator and heat up perfectly for a meal later in the week.
This savory and aromatic dish is a hearty comfort food incorporating the many fresh vegetables of the season. The tangy flavor of cool feta and the salty, yet slightly bitter, flavor of the olives are the perfect accompaniment to this delicious dish.