Kaliope Delios, who, together with her husband, owns the tavern Castro in Avgonyma, Chios, makes delicious stuffed tomatoes. She uses plenty of wild fennel, together with fresh mint from her garden to flavor the simple rice stuffing. Since wild fennel is not readily available in the US, I substituted fennel bulb and dill, and the result was very good. Arborio rice is a good substitute for the common, medium grain Greek rice used in all sorts of stuffings. Prepare domates gemistes a day in advance and keep in the refrigerator. Let them come to room temperature before serving.
Fragrant and sweet, these stuffed tomatoes are delicious when accompanied by feta cheese and fresh crusty bread.
TO SERVE 6
12 medium size, ripe but firm tomatoes, preferably organically grown
1 cup olive oil
3 cups onions, chopped
1 fennel bulb, finely chopped
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons Arborio rice
2 ½ cups of extracted tomato pulp, chopped
1 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 cup dill, chopped
½ cup fresh mint leaves, chopped
1 ½ teaspoons sea salt or to taste
Plenty of freshly ground black pepper
One medium potato, halved crosswise, each piece quartered
Preheat the oven to 375°.
Choose a 2½ inch deep pan that just holds the tomatoes, without leaving much space between them (for example a 14X9 ½ inch oval ovenproof glass dish). Place the tomatoes stem side up and with sharp serrated knife cut the top off each tomato, without detaching it completely. Using a grapefruit spoon remove the pulp very carefully. Take out as much pulp as possible without damaging the skin. Chop the pulp, measure the 2½ cups you need, and freeze the rest for future use.
In a deep skillet warm 2/3 cup olive oil and sautee the onion and fennel bulb for about 5 minutes until soft. Add the rice and sautee, stirring, for 2-3 minutes. Pour in 2 cups of tomato pulp and reduce the heat. Cook stirring for another 3 minutes. Add the parsley, dill and mint and cook another 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and add salt and plenty of pepper.
Stuff the tomatoes with the rice, leaving a little room for the stuffing to expand, and cover with the tops. Place the potato pieces in the gaps between the tomatoes. Pour the rest of the tomato pulp in the pan and drizzle the tomatoes with the reserved olive oil. Sprinkle the potatoes and the tomatoes with salt and pepper and bake for 1 hour.
Turn off the heat and let stand in the oven another 10 minutes, then let cool completely, to room temperature before serving.