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Passport and Plate

Passport & Plate - Epifania's Greek Stuffed Tomatoes and Peppers

Greece | Thursday, 5 March 2015 | 5 photos


Ingredients:
5 large, firm, fat and round tomatoes
5 large peppers
1 large red onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 cup each of Italian/continental parsley, mint and dill all roughly chopped
1/2 cup pine nuts of silvered almonds
1 heaped tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 cup of Mizithra, Kefalograviera or Parmesan cheese cut into small cubes (optional)
2 cups uncooked rice
sugar to sprinkle
4 medium sized potatoes, each cut into 8 wedges (optional)
Tzatziki and loaf of lovely, crusty bread to serve.

How to prepare this recipe

PREPARE THE GOODS
Carefully slice the tops off the tomatoes, trying to keep the top still attached.
Use a spoon to scoop out the flesh and keep to the side for later.
Cut the tops off the peppers and use your hands to remove the seeds and membrane.
Place tomatoes and peppers in a pan large enough to hold them snuggly and sprinkle a little sugar on the inside of each one.

In a large, heavy based pot, add a good lug of olive oil.
Add the onion and garlic and cook for about 7 minutes, stirring occasionally until coloured and fragrant.

GIVE THE TOMATOES A LITTLE EXTRA LOVE
Strain the reserved tomato flesh and blend the solids in a food processor until pureed (if you don't have a processor just squish up the flesh using your hands) and keep the liquid to the side for later use.
Add the pureed tomato to the pot and simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

NOW FOR SOME FLAVOUR
Add to the pot the parsley, mint and dill. Add pine nuts or silvered almonds, a good heaped tablespoon of tomato paste and stir until well combined.
Add 2 cups of rice (we used white short-grain, but you can use whatever rice you prefer or have in your cupboard)
Add 1 tsp each of salt and pepper - remember to trust your taste buds and adjust to taste
Stir until well combined and check that you have a nice, thick consistency. Add more rice if needed.
Take of the heat and stir through the cheese.

STUFF THEM GOOD
Stuff the tomatoes and peppers 3/4 of the way full with rice mix and pop the tops back on.
Pour the reserved liquid from the tomatoes over the vegetables into the baking pan.

SHAKE AND BAKE
Toss the potato wedges in olive oil and salt and pepper to taste and then wedge in-between the tomatoes and peppers.
Bake in a preheated 180C oven for about 1.5 hrs. The should be lovely, blistered and tender.

LET THEM FEAST!
Allow the vegetables to sit for about 30mins to firm before serving.
Serve with Tzatziki and a loaf of crusty bread to soak up all the delicious juices.

The story behind this recipe

I had come to Santorini alone for a 7-day stay but 6 weeks later, the days and my plans had swept-away as I grazed along the island’s veritable gourmet trail with locals in the know. We gorged on mezedhes, drank Vinsanto at vineyards, sipped frappès at kafenions and in the evening legendary feasts would ensue and raki would flow well into the early hours.

Cravings for home-style cuisine inspired my exploration of the South, an area almost forgotten, far removed from the usual tourist trail and where I discovered Dimitris, a family-run taverna reserved for locals that hadn’t changed in decades. The fading mosaic-floor ran to a mezzanine where I sat myself at a rickety table, under the pouring sun. A short, older lady with dark hair and quick eyes greeted me and smiled approvingly as I requested her favourite dishes. Surrounding sunburnt fields harvested the intensely flavoured tomatoes that had been fried into irresistibly soft-centered tangy tomato fritters, or domatokeftedhes. The plump wild capers were so addictive I almost made my tongue numb, the eggplant so juicy and sweet I sang praises to the Greek gods. The rustic provincial cooking gave the produce center stage and every morsel the purest of flavour.

Over and over I would return to bond with the family over wistful nostalgia and culinary philosophy. They welcomed me into the kitchen and in turn to their family. Long days were spent learning traditional dishes like stuffed peppers: blistered, earthy and delightfully tender. It wasn’t always easy to communicate; so they taught me to be Greek and speak with my hands. Soon it felt like home and I found a calm I had forgotten existed. My time as a Greek was no bland encounter; instead a whole tasting experience like savouring a dish with complex flavours and expressive character. We found understanding through a shared passion for food, which, when in the hands of Greece will no doubt take hold of you; uplift, soothe, emancipate and most definitely alter you.

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