Sunday, October 27, 2013

Roasted Tomatoes Stuffed with Herbed Rice

Today, a very simple Italian dish, which I have been making quite often recently.

There are many varieties of dishes featuring stuffed tomatoes--raw or baked. They can be stuffed with different fillings cold or warm. This one is probably my favorite version of roasted tomatoes stuffed with just rice and herbs.

But, as it often happens with simple dishes, the taste of the dish depends on the quality of the ingredients and, in this case, tomatoes. My first dish was made with smaller, campari type of tomatoes. It was wonderful as campari tomatoes are usually sweeter and more red than others. But they are also smaller and harder to stuff and you also need more of them per person. Second time I tried tomatoes on the vine. The dish was good but tomatoes were a bit more watery and less sweet. Third time, I used just the local larger tomatoes, which were very ripe, and this was the best combination of size, color, and taste.

Tomatoes are often stuffed with rice, typically Arborio. Lightly cooked Arborio rice also makes the stuffing in my version. But because roasted tomatoes are more of a fall dish than other fresh tomato dishes, I also used a lot of more fragrant herbs than just basil, which is often paired with tomatoes. A little bit of Parmesan, 30 minutes in the oven, and a wonderful and light roasted tomatoes dish is ready.

Roasted Tomatoes Stuffed with Herbed Rice
(Serves four)

8 ripe medium tomatoes,
1/2 cup Arborio rice,
1 garlic clove, minced,
3 tbsp mixed, fresh herbs (oregano, marjoram, thyme, parsley),
2 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan cheese,
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil.

1. Cook Arborio rice for about 5 minutes, drain on a colander.
2. Cut off the tops of the tomatoes and set them aside. Take the bottoms and using an ice cream scoop, or a grapefruit knife, hollow them out and set aside. Put the scooped out tomato flesh and juice in a medium bowl.

3. Drain extra juice and pour on the bottom of a round oven-proof dish. Add a tablespoon of olive oil to the juice.
4. Preheat oven to 375F.
5. To make the stuffing, mix the rice with the tomato juice and flesh, adding a second tbsp of olive oil, herbs, garlic and Parmesan cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Fill the tomato shells with the stuffing, cover them with the tops, and place in an oven-proof dish.

6. Drizzle the tomatoes with a third tbsp of oil and put in a hot oven.
7. Bake for about 30 minutes until tomatoes are roasted. Serve warm.