Thursday, May 17, 2012

Bonding Time!

As I may have mentioned before, food often holds much more meaning than just nutrient value.  There are cultural, emotional, and spiritual ties to food.  I was reminded of this notion on Mother’s Day weekend when I was visiting my grandfather.  We routinely have Saturday dates, but this weekend he was tied up at home so we went over to visit.  Now this change in routine wasn’t expected (Grandpa is quite regimented) but it all made sense when we arrived and found him preparing his famous Greek dish, “Yemista a la Pappou” as he refers to it (Pappou is the Greek translation of Grandpa; yemista are stuffed peppers/tomatoes).  

Naturally I was eager to jump in and help, but I was instructed to “just watch” (see… I told you he was regimented!) as he did when my grandmother first taught him.  I agreed, but little did he know that watching also meant taking the occasional photo or two of the food and documenting the secret recipe to share with you all.

12-15 tomatoes
2 eggplants
6 peppers (assorted colours)
2 zucchini
8 cloves of garlic
1 large Spanish onion
1 head of celery
3 bunches of mint
3 bunches of basil
2 small cans of tomato paste
3 cups of Italian style rice
1 cup of olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste

1.     Remove the tops of and clean out the tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers.  Arrange in a tray (see below).

2.     Chop up the zucchini, garlic, onion, celery, basil, mint, and ‘insides’ of vegetables assembled in the tray using a food processor.
3.     Add tomato paste, rice, olive oil, and a few pinches of salt and pepper to the mixture.  Mix.
4.     Fill vegetables in tray with mixture.
5.     Cover tray with foil.  Bake for 90 minutes at 450°F.   
6.     Remove foil and bake at 400°F for another 90 minutes.  

Tip: While you are preparing the mixture, turn your tomatoes upside-down to ensure all the water/juices drain so your yemista don't turn out soggy!  According to Pappou tomatoes are always the culprit. 

Tip: Food processor significantly cuts down your time. 

Tip: Place a damp towel underneath one side of the bowl helps excess fluid accumulate in a way that allows you to drain it out.  There seems to be an emphasis on avoiding the excess juice! 

And the last step: ENJOY! Yemista are a favourite among our family. It brings us all together for Sunday lunches and brings back memories of times preparing and enjoying food.  They're vegetarian and you can have them as your main meal or as a side dish. Just remember to include a protein source for a well-balanced meal!  


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