Crete is not only famous for its unique nature and beautiful beaches, but it is also well known for its delicious Mediterranean dishes.
When we planned our trip to Crete, our greek friends warned us about the possibility of gaining weight during our trip to the island. We all know that Greek dishes are really tasty regardless of where you will try them. But, apparently, Cretan cuisine is somehow considered of another level than food in other parts of Greece. Crete is a paradise for food lovers.
Let’s not forget that Crete is the largest Greek islands, home to some of the best wines and olives in the world. Cretan olive oil is of really high quality and has a unique taste.
During our stay in Crete, we not only tried various dishes but we also attended two different cooking classes where we learned how to cook stuffed vegetables. This dish is suitable for vegetarians as well as vegans since there are no animal products in the ingredients.
Our cooking class was informal and fun. We went to a local restaurant in a very small village in Rethymno where a chef taught us how to cook one of the most popular Cretan dishes called “Yemista”. Yemista can be stuffed peppers, stuffed tomatoes and stuffed zucchinis or any other vegetables.
What ingredients you need to cook stuffed vegetables
You need a few big tomatoes, bell peppers, zucchinis and some grape leaves. These vegetables will be your base.
You also need to have some olive oil, salt, a few lemons, garlic, carrots, fresh parsley, fresh mints and rice.
How to prepare the colourful Greek stuffed vegetables
You need to cut around the stem of the peppers and slice the tops off the tomatoes and set aside. You can do the same for zucchinis. Then with a teaspoon, carefully scoop out the seeds and pulp of the vegetables. You should avoid cutting through the base. Don’t throw anything away because you will need to use a food processor or a grater to puree seeds and pulp.
Then grate some carrots and garlic and mix them with the puree in a bowl. Now you can add some dry rice, chopped mint and parsley leaves, plus some salt and black pepper to the mix.
Cut the lemons and squeeze them until you have enough lemon juice to pour into the bowl. While stirring add a lot of olive oil. I know it might sound crazy, but Greeks use a lot of olive oil in their cuisine.
We were shocked when we saw our cook almost finishing the big bottle of oil for this dish, but apparently this is the right way to cook Greek-style stuffed vegetables.
Before filling them add some olive oil into tomatoes, peppers and zucchinis. Make sure you avoid overstuffing them. In this way, they will look nicer when served.
If you already filled all the bases but you still have some filling left, you can use the grape leaves and stuff them as well. Separate each leaf and put the filling in the middle of the leaf then carefully roll it and wrap it.
Then bake your stuffed vegetables in a preheated oven at 180 °C for between 100 to 120 minutes. While they are in the oven, you can check them sparingly and if you notice that they are a bit dry, you can add some water.
The best way to check they are done is to check if the rice inside is soft.