Saturday, January 2, 2010

Yemista - Traditional Ladino Recipe Stuffed Capsicum/Bell Peppers

Happy New Year!

I am thrilled to add to the blog today a recipe from Deb from California who wrote in with a special family recipe her grandmother used to make!  Do you have a special traditonal recipe you'd like to share?  Send your recipe with your story to:

Deb wrote:
All of my "family recipes" are favorites from my Ladino side -- mostly from my maternal grandmother and great aunt. The Ladino people are essentially Greek Jews from Spain -- when Ferdinand and Isabella had their little party they called The Inquisition, they basically told all the Jews living in Spain that they could leave the country, convert to Catholicism, or be killed. So yeah, the Jews left the building. Many of them settled in what was then the Ottoman Empire and later became Greece. And despite the intervening 500ish years, modern-day Sephardic Jews in Greece still spoke Spanish at home. (In fact, my grandma spoke 4 languages before coming to the US: Ladino at home, Greek in the streets, French at school, and Hebrew in synagogue. English kinda stayed a big hot mess for her in her late adulthood.) Ladino itself is a funky mix of circa-1500 Spain-spanish, Greek, Turkish, and Hebrew. It's actually written in Hebrew script and read from right to left just like Hebrew...but when you actually pronounce the words, they sound like Spanish. So reading a Ladino prayer book or poem is kinda trippy!

Ladino culture is defined by its songs, poetry and of course FOOD. The food is very mediterranean; Greek dishes with a turkish or spanish influence. In that vein, you don't see a lot of spices or added seasonings in Ladino food -- it's all about tasting your base ingredients. 500 years of Ladinos could totally roll with that; fresh meats and veggies from your local butchers & farmers, backyard or windowbox gardens, and a general affinity for fresh, high-quality foods (at the best price possible, of course -- we're still jews! ;^) really makes the cuisine pop. If you're just shopping at a local big box market like Coles or Safeway, your flavor mileage may vary. You've been warned; shop at your farmers' market for this dish!


Yemistas are traditionally stuffed bell peppers (Capsicum), but you can also stuff tomatoes. I just like how it sounds like you're saying "yummy stuff" when you talk about them. This dish is also sometimes called, more plainly, domates de pipryia -- stuffing of peppers.

  • 6 bell peppers (capiscum) - I recommend red ones for better flavor
  • 1 pound ground beef (or turkey, or chicken, or skip the meat entirely and used canned garbanzo beans or white beans or other protein source that isn't too dry)
  • 1/2 cup raw rice, rinsed (brown = healthier, but can take longer to cook)
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh parsley, leaves only
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 cup water
  • tomato paste (store-bought or you-made); 4 tablespoons and up (depending on how wet your protein is to start with)

 Cut out the stem end of each bell pepper with a short knife

Scoop out & discard seeds and ribs

Mix together the beef (or chicken or beans), rice, parsley, salt, and pepper.

Stuff each pepper about 3/4 full (to allow for the rice to expand) and put 'em in an oiled baking dish

Mix the water and tomato paste together.

Pour a few splashes of the mixture into each pepper, and put the rest in the baking dish around the peppers.

Cover the baking dish (with tinfoil or other) and cook on high at 200 degrees for about 45 mins. Uncover and bake for another 10 minutes.

Serve warm, perhaps with extra tomato yumminess on the side.

You basically cook it until the rice is done but before the bell peppers lose their sweet just-cooked smell. I usually tend to overdose each bell pepper with tomato sauce; erring on the side of slightly weaker (more cooked, more collapsible) bell peppers but thoroughly cooked rice.


Thanks so much for sharing your recipe-memory Deb - sounds scrumptious!

Cocinar, comer y ser feliz


  1. I bought a dozen peppers this afternoon. Looks like I know what I am making for lunch tomorrow.

  2. Thanks for the recipe!!! Love it

    btw, bird nest is made up of about 58% soluable proteins...the highest amoung all food and even synetic protein powders

    it greatly increase tissue regeneration
    sources taken from the internet


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