Baked Stuffed Tomatoes
Rice-stuffed tomatoes are quite easy to make. I made this version with a sun-dried tomato risotto, which I then stuffed inside Brandywine tomatoes. The tomatoes were paired with a vegetable sauce made from the insides of the tomatoes, lemon juice, and a few additional vegetable such as carrots, corn, peas and onions. The sauce was placed at the bottom of the baking pan to help keep the tomatoes from burning.
I topped the tomatoes with a Parmesan shortbread crust and baked them for a few minutes before serving. The result is a fairly light meal with a nice contrast of texture from the crusty top and the creaminess of the rice filling.
Yields: 10 stuffed tomatoes10 brandywine tomatoes (or another variety)
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
4 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 cup Carnaroli rice (see tips)
¼ cup orzo pasta
2-½ cups homemade vegetable stock (or canned vegetable broth or water), warm
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 tablespoons sun-dried tomatoes, finely chopped
2 tablespoons sharp yellow Cheddar cheese, diced
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
1 cup frozen vegetable combination (peas, carrots and corn), thawed
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon sugar
1 lemon, zested and juiced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
3 shortbread cookies
3 tablespoons curly parsley
2 tablespoons parmesan cheese, ground into fine powder
1-½ teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
Prepping the tomatoes:
Trim the top of the tomatoes, creating a cap. Using a serrated-edge spoon, remove and reserve the juice, seeds and flesh of the tomatoes in a bowl. Sprinkle the inside with kosher salt. Layer a cooling rack on top of a baking sheet and place the tomato halves on top, flesh side down. Let them sit for 20 minutes. Pat dry with kitchen towels.
Making sun-dried tomato risotto filling:
In a heavy-bottom pan, heat 1 tablespoon of oil. Add shallots and cook until nicely golden and tender (it may take 5 minutes). Once the shallots are cooked, add garlic. Cook for another minute so the garlic is cooked and fragrant. Transfer the onions to a plate, leaving as much oil as possible in the pan. Set aside.
In the same pan, add another tablespoon of oil. Add the rice and orzo pasta. The oil should coat all the grains. Add 1 cup of stock and stir constantly. After bringing the liquid to a boil, lower the heat to medium-low, add the caramelized shallots and cheddar cheese and continue cooking for about 20 minutes. Check the liquid and periodically add ¼ cup of stock when all the liquid is absorbed. Let simmer for another 10 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon parsley and sun-dried tomatoes. Check doneness of the rice. If it's not fully cooked, add another ½ cup water and extend the cooking time to another 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
For the shortbread crust:
Grind the shortbread cookies into a fine powder (you could use a mini-blender, a grater or a mortar and pestle). Add the lemon zest, 1 tablespoon parsley, 1 tablespoon Parmesan, butter and a pinch of salt and pepper. It should form coarse crumbs. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
In the bowl containing the tomatoes, add sugar, lemon juice, mustard and 1 tablespoon oil. Stir well.
In a pan, heat the remaining oil. Add the onions and cook until nicely brown. Add the peas, carrots and corn. Cook for about 2-3 minutes. Add the tomato mixture. Turn off the heat immediately. Transfer the mixture into a baking pan, previously lined with parchment paper.
Stuff the tomatoes with 2-3 tablespoons of the risotto mixture. Cover with crust by gently pressing it against the top of the tomato. Place them on the sauce.
Transfer the tomatoes to the oven. Bake for 20 minutes.
Sprinkle with curly parsley, Parmesan and drizzle with a little oil.
I used Carnaroli rice but you could use oanother starchy, sticky, short-grained rice such as Arborio rice, Rome rice or even sushi rice. The short-grained rice pairs nicely with orzo pasta because it's starchy and sticks together after being cooked. Unlike basmati and jasmine rice, it's not recommended to wash Carnaroli rice or it will make it less starchy.
It's important to pour ladlesfuls of warm stock. The key is to pour the liquid incrementally and never let the dish dry out, it would burn the rice at the bottom.
To get a good cheese flavor and yellow color without the stringy cheesy bits, add it right after boiling the broth.