By Cristina Stribacu
"This is a typical Greek summer dish with olive oil, and we can enjoy it all around the country, but with some changes according to the area. In Messinia Peloponesse, where I live, every family has a vegetable garden which means abundance of vegetables in summer. On Satudays, ladies used to make bread on the wood oven so they take this opportunity to put in the wood oven a big pan with stuffed vegetables. The secret of the recipe is extra virgin olive oil (evoo)".
Photo (c) Gastronomos
Basil leaves (or some fresh vine leaves, boiled for 2-5 minutes, needed to cover the bottom of the pot)
3 large tomatoes
3 medium zucchini
2 medium eggplant
2 medium potatoes, peeled
80 ml extra virgin olive oil (evoo)
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tsp tomato paste diluted in 100 ml of water
For the filling:
1 kg of rice for stuffing
3 tomatoes (same from above, cores and seeds, grated)
3 medium zucchini (same from above, cores and seeds, grated)
3 large onions grated
1/2 bunch mint, finely chopped
1/2 bunch dill or fennel, finely chopped
A little dried oregano, dried thyme + thyme
200 ml extra virgin olive oil (evoo)
Juice of 1 large lemon
1 1/2 tsp salt
We take the widest pot we have and cover the bottom well with the basil leaves or the vine leaves. Cut a "lid" on each vegetable (see picture): the tomatoes on the side of the stalk, while the zucchini, aubergines and potatoes a slice on the long side. With a spoon remove the core of all the vegetables. Grate the pulp and seeds from the tomatoes and zucchini -we will use that in the filling-, while we keep the cores of eggplant and the potato for another cooking. Lightly salt the inside of each vegetable.
Put all the ingredients in a bowl and mix well - the filling will become relatively juicy from the tomato crumb and the grated zucchini that release its liquids, we do not drain it when we grate it.
Arrange all the emptied vegetables in the pot, on the leaves, tightly together, with the opening facing up. With a spoon we fill them with the rice mixture, leaving a gap of 1 cm from their rim - we keep aside the filling that will be left over. Cover the vegetables with their "lids". Pour over the covered stuffing with 60 ml of olive oil, half a lemon juice and the diluted pulp. Cover the stuffing with a plate with a diameter slightly smaller than that of the pot. Finally, add enough water to half cover the dish.
Put the pot on high heat until the liquid boils. Reduce the heat, half cover the pot with its lid and cook until the vegetables are soft and the rice is done. Remove from the heat, carefully remove the dish and pour over the remaining oil and the remaining lemon juice. Serve the stuffing when it cools enough and accompany with Greek yogurt and bread.
About the author: Cristina Stribacu is our Women in Olive Oil (WIOO) Director of International Relations and also co-founder at LIÁ Extra Virgin Olive Oil, a family company based in beautiful Messinia Peloponesse (https://liaoliveoil.com/).