Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Week 11: Stuffed Tomatoes, Two Ways

With rice, beans, and corn.
Herewith, a reminder of some of the perils of farming, and, by extension, of being a CSA shareholder: 

Crops fail. Something goes wrong with the zucchini seed and you get yellow squash instead. Blueberries get torched by 103-degree heat. Carrots shrivel, greens bolt. It’s too hot, too dry, too cool, too wet, too something.

And yet, we still get wonders from the harvest. For this, I am eternally grateful to all the individuals who have dedicated their lives to farming, especially here in my corner of Massachusetts.

This week's wonder is tomatoes. Vine-ripened tomatoes. Not-shipped-across-country tomatoes. (Not even shipped-one-town-over tomatoes. A step away from my-own-backyard tomatoes.) I can’t think of any fruit or vegetable more dissimilar from its supermarket counterpart. In New England, August tomatoes epitomize tomato perfection.

This is the time of year for caprese salads and tomato-and-mayo sandwiches and stuffed tomatoes -- anything that pushes these gems from garnish to starring role. Both of these stuffed tomato recipes use  corn, another wonder from the farm that we have in abundance at the moment.
With ricotta, corn, and crumbs.

Tomatoes Stuffed With Ricotta and Fresh Corn 
(Adapted from Veggie Belly. Serve as a rich side dish or a light supper.)

3 medium tomatoes (about 6 ounces each)
1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
2 Tbsp pesto (I used a cheese-less version of my nut-free basil pesto)
3 Tbsp finely grated Parmesan cheese (you may want to lower this amount if your pesto already has cheese in it)
3/4 cup to 1 cup fresh corn kernels (cut from one ear of corn)
Black pepper, to taste
6 Tbsp panko breadcrumbs
1/2 tsp dried basil leaves
1/2 tsp dried oregano leaves
1/2 tsp garlic powder
Olive oil, for drizzling

Cut each tomato in half horizontally. Remove and discard the seeds, then carefully scoop out the tomato pulp from each half, leaving an intact shell. (I found that a melon baller worked well for removing the pulp.) Lightly salt the tomato shells. Place them cut side down on paper towels and let them drain for 30 minutes or more.

Meanwhile, roughly chop the tomato pulp; pat dry with paper towels if the pulp is very juicy. Combine the tomato pulp with the ricotta, pesto, Parmesan, corn, and black pepper, and set aside. Combine the breadcrumbs and seasonings.

After the tomato shells have drained, spoon the ricotta mixture into each half, mounding the filling as necessary. Top each half with about 1 Tbsp of seasoned crumbs, patting the crumbs down lightly. Place the tomatoes into a lightly oiled baking dish and drizzle a little olive oil on top of each. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes, until the crumbs begin to brown.

Tomatoes Stuffed With Rice, Beans, and Corn
(Adapted from a USA Rice Federation recipe. For a Mexican-flavored approach, season the rice mixture with cumin and chili powder instead of parsley and thyme.)

4 medium tomatoes (about 6 ounces each)
1.5 cups cooked rice
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 cup black beans, rinsed and drained
3/4 cup to 1 cup fresh corn kernels (cut from one ear of corn)
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
Olive oil, for drizzling

Remove the top of each tomato (cutting deep enough to include the stem area) and reserve the tops. Remove and discard the tomato seeds, then scoop out the tomato pulp. Lightly salt the tomato shells. Place them cut side down on paper towels and let them drain for 30 minutes or more.

Roughly chop the tomato pulp. Combine the pulp with the rice, onion, beans, corn, cheese, and herbs. Stuff the tomatoes with the rice mixture. Place the tomatoes into a lightly oiled baking dish, and replace the tomato tops. Drizzle a little olive oil on top of each tomato. Bake at 425 degrees for about 20 minutes or until the filling is heated through. Bake any extra filling in a greased casserole dish, for about 15 minutes.

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