Summer Food: Stuffed Tomatoes

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Tomatoes is one of the most stable, vegetables around the world and especially around the Mediterranean, and more pronounced in Spain, Italy, Greece and Turkey. What a proud title for a vegetable that was not even known 500 years ago in that region. The Spanish brought the tomato to Europe. It grew easily in Mediterranean climates, and cultivation began in the 1540s. It was probably eaten shortly after it was introduced, though it was certainly being used as food by the early 1600s in Spain. The earliest discovered cookbook with tomato recipes was published in Naples in 1692, though the author had apparently obtained these recipes from Spanish sources. However, in certain areas of Italy, such as Florence, the fruit was used solely as tabletop decoration before it was ever incorporated into the local cuisine until the late 17th or early 18th century.

The best part is that summer is the season of the tomatoes. You can find them really fresh and sweet. They are very inexpensive and readily available from early summer until early September. I know oyu can find them year around, but the flavor and the sweetness oft eh summer tomato is unparalleled. From all the varieties of tomatoes for this dish, I like the most the vine tomatoes. There are many different type of tomatoes, we cannot possibly discuss al of them but there are tomatoes that worth taking some time talking about.

Roma or plum tomatoes: It is a variety coming form italy and their most common characteristic is the shape, that is long and thin, nothing as usual tomatoes. Their best feature is the relatively low moisture content, that makes them excellent for canning and sauces. If oyu buy  canned tomatoes (no shame on that my friends) it is probably what is in the can. But due to their shape they are not good for this recipe.

Generic tomatoes: Those are the the cheap tomatoes you can find in every mega mart. They are pretty big, compared to plum, bright red, and they have a very thick skin. The flavor is not fully developed and it is very since they picked while green and ripen in the back of a truck, or a container. Although ripping is referring the to the taste and the flavor, when we shop them we associate it more with the color. Although mediocre they are still, good for salsa, pico de galo, but not good fro this application since they have very thick skin.

Tomatoes on the vine: Those are usually small tomatoes, grown on the vine, and therefore are the top quality tomatoes in a general mega-mart.

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Wash them carefully without removing them of the stems. Remember to remove the stickers from the tomatoes. Not tasty!!

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Use a pair of scissors or kitchen shears to cut them at the “knee”, the place where the tomato stem bends before attaching on the vine.

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With a sharp knife remove the cap ( well the soon to be cap), I mean the top part of the tomato in about 1/2 inch from the top. Make sure that you are keeping each tomato with its own lid.

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With a spoon hollow out the tomatoes and keep the “insides”. Squeeze the pieces in your hand to separate the seed/juice and keep separate in a bowl the segments. Occasionally there is a small part of the wall that divides the tomato in quarters  stays in, scrape it out and keep it all in the same bowl as the other insides. Let the stand cut side down on a rack, and have a pan to collect the juice.

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Prepare the vegetables. For this application I am using squash and zucchini. Oh I also added some butternut squash that was laying around.

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Grade them with the tomato pieces you reserved from the previous step and a big onion. You can actually add any vegetable you like. Pepper, potato, eggplant are all very good additions. Chop in any some herbs ( I add parsley and green onion.) Add in the mix two cups of rice and 1/2 cup olive oil. Add the juice you have reserved and season with salt and pepper and some cumin.

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Use the mixture to stuff the tomatoes. Stuff the about a 1/4 inch from the top. and cover them up with the the lid.

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Arrange them in a pan and and drizzle them with olive oil and some salt on the top. Bake at 350 F for 45 minutes or until the rice is done.

It is a definitely must food, for the summer. It is better served at room temperature with a side of tzatziki or yogurt. You can add ground beef, but it will be heavier… Leave it simple…

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Last modified: December 1, 2013 by Georgios Pyrgiotakis