I am very lucky to have a roommate/best friend/co-blogger who is attending classes at the French Culinary Institute this summer. Every Saturday, Whitney comes home with stories of flambeed chicken, animal cheeks, stewed lamb and buttery baked barley. I only wish I could take part in this exciting culinary experience. This past Saturday, Whit came home with stuffed tomatoes from her class. When I first think of a stuffed vegetable, I think of ground meat and rice- a sort of grainy filling in a mushy container. But these were different. The tomatoes were tender and filled to the brim with mouth watering ingredients, none of which were meat or rice. When it came time for me to cook something for today’s blog, I immediately felt the urge to cook those tomatoes; if not for the new and exciting culinary challenge, then purely the volition to just taste those delectable treats again.
Stuffed Tomatoes A La Ariel and Whitney
6 medium sized beefsteak tomatoes, drained and hollowed
2 medium vidalia onions, chopped
1 1/2 – 2 cups olive oil and canola oil mixture
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 cups breadcrumbs
1/2 cup corn
1/2 pine nuts
thyme and oregano to taste – about 3-5 tablespoons of each
1/2 cup parmesan cheese – 1/4 for the filling, 1/4 for garnishing
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Start by sweating your onions until they are completely translucent. To do this, heat your oil mixture on low heat and mix in your chopped onions. After about 20 minutes of stirring, depending on how large your pan is, you can add the chopped garlic. Continue stirring for about five more minutes. At this point, your garlic shouldn’t be raw anymore but definitely should not be browned and your onions should be extremely tender and almost completely see through. Take the onions and garlic off the heat and let them cool to room temperature.
While you wait, drain and hollow your tomatoes. To do this, cut each tomato in half according to the picture above. The top half should be about 1/3 or less of the tomato. Remember, the bottom is the part we’re stuffing so we want that to be as big as possible for maximum stuffage. Now take a melon baller and carefully carve out the insides of the tomatoes. Be sure that you don’t cut a hole in the bottom of the tomatoes during this step. When you’re finished, there can be some flesh left on the inside, but you do want to make sure that there aren’t any seeds and that there is minimal juice.
When the onion, garlic and oil mixture are cooled, it’s time to create the stuffing. Add in the breadcrumbs, thyme, oregano, salt, pepper, pine nuts, parm cheese and corn. The herbs and spices should all be used to taste. You will need a lot of them though because the breadcrumbs as well as the onion mixture haven’t been seasoned. Keep tasting your mixture as you add in the herbs. Once you have reached the desired flavor, you’re all set. Set your hollowed tomatoes on a cookie sheet and begin to fill with the mix. To do this, I used a big spoon and put a heaping ball of stuffing into the tomato. Then I used my hands to shape the stuffing on top. Repeat with all of the tomatoes. Garnish the tomatoes with a generous dash of breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese. This will create a nice crust when the tomatoes are baked.
Place the tomatoes in the oven for about 15-20 minutes. When they’re done, the cheese should have formed a lightly browned crust on top and the skins of the tomatoes should be soft. Let the tomatoes cool if you have the patience, then enjoy!
Since we had some stuffing left over, we decided to fill one of Whitney’s little le creuset casserole dishes. These tiny little dishes are called Cocottes and can be found on the le creuset website. It was actually perfect for the extra stuffing and we topped it with even more parmesan and breadcrumbs. It was sinful, really.
I have decided that after making these tomatoes that my life will never be the same. Thanks to Whitney and her excellent teaching skills, I have mastered the stuffed tomato. The flesh was soft and juicy and the stuffing was just amazing. All of the flavors worked so well together. The corn was sweet and the pine nuts were toasty and nutty. I especially loved the subtle onion flavor. Taking the time to sweat them properly was definitely worth it. They retained their bite but were tremendously sweet. I really could eat that stuffing forever. Anyway, I hope you all try this recipe. It is delicious and perfect for a summertime treat.