That Time of Year
August 21, 2008
I know, I know. It was tomatoes yesterday and it’s tomatoes again today. But, it is August after all. And today’s recipe is actually quite different from yesterday’s. Instead of the über-simple slice-and-salt method at the heart of yesterday’s sandwich, this recipe requires some elbow grease. But, trust me, it’s worth it. Here’s how it works. First, take a gaggle of romas (bonus points for multiple colors) and halve them. Using a melon baller (or a grapefruit spoon or regular old spoon) scoop out the insides and gently tap out any excess liquid in the tomato:
But, don’t forget to save those insides! Roast them up in a baking dish with a drizzle of olive oil, some salt and red pepper flakes. Pour the whole melty result into a blender or food processor and whir until you’ve got yourself a very tasty marinara. I speak from experience.
(Click “more” for the rest of the story, more photos & the recipe.)
Okay, back to the stuffed tomatoes. Once you’ve got your romas halved and hollowed-out, mix up the filling. I went with ricotta, fresh herbs (I used basil and chives, but, really, go with whatever you have on hand), red pepper flakes, fennel seeds, salt and pepper (and, if you’re looking for something a little heartier, chopped frozen spinach (thawed and drained) would be another good addition):
In a separate shallow bowl, pour in some dried bread crumbs (I used whole-wheat panko, but regular ol’ dried bread crumbs would be fine, though I’d stick to the unseasoned variety, so as not to compete with the herbs in the filling). Using a small spring-loaded ice cream scoop (or two soup spoons or, if you enjoy that sort of thing (I do not), a piping bag), fill the hollowed-out romas with a mound of filling. Take each filled roma and invert it (ricotta stuffing side-down) in the bread crumbs, pressing lightly so the bread crumbs adhere to the stuffing. Place the filled-and-crumbed tomatoes on a baking sheet:
Next, roast the tomatoes for 10 to 15 minutes, until the bread crumbs have begun to brown and the tomatoes have softened. If your breadcrumbs haven’t started to brown after 15 minutes, run them under the broiler for 2 to 3 minutes.
Serve warm or at room temperature. I used small (golf ball-sized, about) romas because we served them as an appetizer at a little gathering we had last Saturday—a quick cocktail hour before a dinner reservation. By the time dinner rolled around, no one wanted to leave. I’d like to believe it was the tomatoes (which were perfectly bite-sized and delicious), but I think it had much more to do with the absolutely brilliant summer evening we were all basking in. We eventually made it to dinner, but we also found our way back to our house afterwards and, even though we were stuffed with flat breads from dinner, polished off the remaining stuffed tomatoes. Call it dessert.
Ricotta-Stuffed Roma Tomatoes
20 small to medium-sized roma tomatoes, halved, hollowed-out (using a melon baller), and drained of excess liquid
2 cups ricotta
1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs, such as basil and chives
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh-cracked black pepper
1/2 cup dried bread crumbs, such as panko
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil.
Place the halved and hollowed-out tomatoes on the lined baking sheet, open side up. In a medium sized bowl, combine the ricotta, herbs, pepper flakes, fennel seeds, salt and pepper. Pour the bread crumbs in a separate shallow bowl.
Using a small, spring-loaded ice cream scoop, fill each tomato half with about a tablespoon of the ricotta filling (the amount will vary based on the size of your tomatoes, but you want the tomato half to be completely filled and the filling to create a slight mound). Take the filling tomato half and invert it (ricotta side-down) into the shallow bowl of bread crumbs, pressing lightly so the bread crumbs adhere to the ricotta. Place the tomato back on the baking sheet, bread crumb-side up. Repeat with the remaining tomatoes. [Note: If you are making these ahead of time (up to 4-6 hours in advance), cover the baking sheet with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Before baking them off later, remove the sheet from the fridge and allow the tomatoes to return to room temperature.]
Roast for 10 to 15 minutes, when the bread crumbs should be browned and the tomatoes softened. If, at 15 minutes, the bread crumbs haven’t browned, run the baking sheet under the broiler for 2 to 3 minutes.
Serve warm or at room temperature.