Saturday, 14 May 2016
Changing Seasons - Stuffed tomatoes and green peppers
Summer has arrived I think. The seasons are not so different any more. Winter was warm and spring was warmer. However, now in mid-May I think we can assume that the sun will shine with a little more heat every day until its warmth turns to a steady swelter which will burn our skins, parch the soil and hopefully bring tourists to fatten the country's coffers.
Cabbages are beginning to look a little lacklustre, lettuces limp. Tomatoes, peppers and aubergines have appeared fresh in the supermarket and even a watermelon, though that is still out of its season.
When I first arrived in Greece 40 years ago lettuces and cabbages had disappeared by mid May and we did not see them in the green grocers till after September. Tomatoes which had been unavailable all winter suddenly appeared and we ate them almost daily all through the summer. Back then, in the olden days, we only ate the vegetables that were in season because that was all we could find in the shops. Nowadays there will be lettuces in sizzling July and tomatoes for our mid winter Christmas.
Most Greek housewives prefer the fruit and vegetables that are fresh and seasonable. For a start they are cheaper and of course the taste of a fresh tomato from a local market garden is completely different from that of the hothouse variety. Most of them/us still shop daily and buy twice a week from our small farmers market.
One of the most popular summer dishes is stuffed tomatoes and green peppers (capsicum). I made a small dish of them last week and here is the recipe - with photos. Other popular vegetables to stuff are aubergines and zucchinis and the stuffing can be rice, onions and herbs or with a little minced meat as well. I prefer a little meat but as we are watching our weight this batch was meatless.
The hollowed out tomatoes and topless green peppers ready for stuffing. The tomatoes are easily emptied by cutting a small slice off the top and digging out the flesh with a teaspoon. It doesn't matter if the tomato skin is torn a little or a hole made in the bottom by too enthusiastic 'digging'. The stuffing sits in there just the same.
I put the flesh from half of the tomatoes, the onion and herbs into this little mixer and make them into a pulp. The stuffing mix does not need to be precooked.
Here are the vegetables, each filled with the stuffing mixed, ready to be closed.
Closed up, surrounded by potatoes cut into small pieces which hold them all in one place so they don't move around or fall over while cooking. My mother-in-law always sprinkled breadcrumbs over them all before putting them in the oven so of course I do that as well (for her son). They have been drizzled with olive oil and salt. The dish does not need any extra water because usually quite a lot of juice comes from the tomatoes.
And behold, this is what they look like after an hour in a hot oven. A little blackness on top just gives them extra flavour.
half a dozen tomatoes
three or four green peppers
(or how ever many you think your family will eat)
one onion, chopped or put into the mixer
one clove of garlic
a small bunch of parsely
one dessert spoon of short grain rice for every vegetable
salt and pepper
If you're using zuchinis and aubergines, cut off a small lid and hollow them out the same way with a teaspoon. Use the flesh in the stuffing. Put it in the mixer with the tomato and onion.
a little sugar
also nice is a small handful of raisins and pine nuts
Hollow out the tomatoes and cut a lid off the top of the peppers, removing the seeds.
Put half the tomato flesh into the mixer with the onion, garlic, roughly chopped parsely, mint and basil. Mix to a pulp.
In another bowl put the rest of the contents of the tomatoes and roughly mash up any lumps with your fingers. Add the rest from the mixer. Add a small glass of olive oil, the rice, salt and pepper. That is your stuffing ready.
Put a small sprinkle of sugar in the bottom of each tomato. This counteracts the acidity of the tomato. Now fill up each shell and cover with its lid.
Peel and cut up the potatoes into small chunks and wedge them in between the vegetables. Drizzle olive oil over them all, sprinkle a little more salt and scatter some breadcrumbs over the top.
Cook in a hot oven from one to one and a half hours. The potatoes should be soft and the tops of the tomatoes lightly blackened.
If you want to use a little minced meat to make it a heartier meal for your man, then brown the mince a little and add it to the raw tomato and rice mix before stuffing. I would use a handful of mince for this amount of vegetables.
Any stuffing mix left over you can just add to the dish around the veges and potatoes and maybe a little water. It will cook perfectly well there and you'll have a little more to put on the plate.
Serve with feta cheese, sourdough bread and a nicely cooled rough white wine.