Monday, June 27, 2011

Baked Stuffed Tomatoes

There are some dishes that I really love, but for some reason I keep forgetting they exist. This is one of them. About once a year I suddenly remember it exists and make. And it's actually a shame, because this dish is easy, delicious, and filling. So hopefully now I'll remember it and you can all enjoy it too.

Now, as you will see, the recipe here is pretty vague. The reason is that this dish is one of the most versatile and customizable in the world. Don't have cream cheese? Use some other cheese, creme fraiche or sour cream instead. Want to make it dairy free or vegan? Lose the cheese, add some lentils, and you have a great vegan dish. Have some leftover rice or quinoa in your fridge? Throw it in the mix as well. In other words, this recipe is more about the basic technique. I don't think I've ever made it exactly the same twice.

Baked Stuffed Tomatoes 

Ingredients (for 4 tomatoes, but you can just multiply them for as many tomatoes as you like): 

- 4 medium-large tomatoes, preferably ones with relatively flat bottoms 
- a few tablespoons of cream cheese (or soft goat cheese, or sour cream, or creme fraiche, or whatever you like)
- 1/2 of a small-medium red onion, finely diced.  
- a handful of grated cheese (mozzarella or cheddar or whichever kind you like)
- fresh herbs, finely chopped
- a few tablespoons of breadcrumbs 
- salt and pepper to taste 


1. Prepare the tomatoes: slice off just the top of each tomato. If you like, you can reserve the top and put it on the stuffed tomato as a little "hat" for presentation purposes, but it's not necessary. With a teaspoon carefully and gently remove the contents of the tomatoes onto a cutting board. Try not to break the tomato itself. Lightly oil the bottom of an oven safe dish (oil spray is best for this) and place the tomatoes, bottoms down, in the dish. Preheat oven to 350 F/180 C.

2. Prepare the filling: chop the tomato filling into small chunks and place in a bowl. Add the onion, and then mix in the cream cheese, the grated cheese, the herbs and the breadcrumbs. Season with salt and pepper to taste. (As noted above, you can really mix in anything you like here. The only thing that remains constant is the contents of the tomato. Everything else can change according to your tastes).

3. Fill each tomato with the filling. The filling should be a bit higher than the tomato itself, but not so high that it falls. If you have extra filling you can place it in the dish outside of the tomatoes and let it cook with them. If you want, you can top the tomatoes with the their tops.  Bake the tomatoes in the oven for about 10-15 minutes, or until the tomatoes are tender. Because the filling has nothing in it that requires cooking, it's really just a matter of getting the tomatoes to the consistency you like. If you prefer your tomatoes lightly baked and still quite crunchy, bake them only until the filling warms through. If you like a softer tomato, leave them a bit longer (but not so long that they burst!).

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