I’m not a vegetarian, but it’s food like this that might actually sway me to become one: Stuffed Tomatoes with Parmesan, Garlic and Basil.
We’re on the final days of our August 2009 Magazine of the Month, American Classics, and I’m rounding it off with a delicious vegetarian dish that can be served as a side or main: Stuffed Tomatoes.
The recipe calls for 6 “large, ripe” tomatoes. I generally prefer tomatoes on the vine, but given only the description of “large” and nothing more, I automatically think “beefsteak” because they’re the largest that I can commonly find in my grocery store. Because I was serving only two people I halved the number of tomatoes, thinking I wouldn’t eat a whopping 6 stuffed tomatoes. Who would do that, right?
Oh, my. If only I knew then what I know now: I would have eaten a truckload!
This reminded me of my dad’s tomato plants. When I was a kid, my dad used to grow tomatoes in the backyard. As they’d ripen, he’d pick them right off the vine, quarter and sprinkle them with a little salt on top. We’d eat ‘em just like that.
Similarly, our Stuffed Tomatoes are hollowed out, sprinkled with kosher salt and allowed to sit, upside down, for 30 minutes. Not only does the salt eliminate the excess moisture, but it adds a flavor that reminded me of my dad and those delicious, salted tomatoes he’d serve up as summertime snacks.
As it turns out, three beefsteak tomatoes requires the full recipe of filling — not halved. Even with the full recipe of filling I wasn’t able to fill up my tomatoes all the way. They were loosely packed to the top and, after cooking, sunk into the tomatoes a bit.
Here’s an “after baking” pic, and you can see how the filling sunk into the tomatoes:
If you like the gigantic beefsteak tomatoes, make more filling. It’s not that hard or time consuming, anyway.
Here’s another little trick: Place your tomatoes into a nonstick muffin tray to bake. The muffin tin will enable the tomatoes to retain their shape — after they come out of the oven, they will need to be eaten right away because they’ll spread and start to fall apart.
This above shot was taken after the tomatoes had been resting for 4 or so minutes. The tomato starts to spread a bit — which is fine, because they get cut up and inhaled pretty quickly anyway.
If you have extra fresh bread, tomatoes and basil to get rid of, you’ve gotta make these. No kidding around, these tomatoes were delicious.
Stuffed Tomatoes with Parmesan, Garlic and Basil
Adapted from American Classics
6 large firm, ripe tomatoes, 1/8 inch sliced off steam end, cored and seeded
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 large slice white bread, torn into quarters
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup grated Parmesan (note: I used Romano)
1/3 chopped fresh basil leaves
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
Ground black pepper
Sprinkle inside of each tomato with salt, and then place each tomato upside down on several layers of paper towels; let stand to remove excess moisture, about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, pulse bread in food processor until coarsely ground, about ten 1-second pulses (you should have about 3/4 cup). Toss bread crumbs with 1 tablespoon olive oil, Parmesan or Romano, basil, garlic, and pepper to taste in a small bowl; set aside.
Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees; line bottom of 13×9 inch baking dish with foil or coat bottoms of muffin cups with 1/2 teaspoon olive oil.
Roll up several sheets of paper towels and pat inside of each tomato dry. Arrange tomatoes in single layer in baking dish/muffin tin. Mound stuffing into tomatoes (about 1/4 cup per tomato); drizzle with remaining 2 tablespoons oil. Bake until tops are golden brown and crisp, about 20 minutes.
A+. If you end up with extra tomatoes that you aren’t sure what to do with, give these stuffed tomatoes a try; they are delectable.