I am a very spoiled tomato-eater. Once you have tasted a summer tomato straight from the vine, you can never ever eat one out of season. Tasting a flavorless, hard, mealy tomato is about as disappointing a culinary experience as you can get. I used to go out into my father’s garden with a salt shaker, pick a tomato, shake the salt into my mouth for the first bite (because salt won’t cling to an uncut tomato), take a juicy bite and keep eating until I got a stomachache. All worth it. And if we were in Italy in the summer visiting family, forget it. I was out of control. Because the only thing better than a tomato from my father’s garden is a tomato from a southern Italian garden. The sun and soil do something magical to those tomatoes.
So, because I am a tomato-maniac, you might be seeing a lot of recipes and posts on my Instagram feed in the next few months with…tomatoes. Allow me to start with one of my favorite recipes. Do I say that a lot? I only bring the best to you, my lovelies. These risotto-stuffed tomatoes are not as difficult as they sound. And although it is not a 5-minute recipe, it is not a complicated one either. First of all, if you wanted, you could just make the rice, which is INSANE. Insanely good, not insanely hard to make. It is actually a tomato risotto made from tomato water which is made from the insides of tomatoes. And you’re not even making a real risotto, which requires you to add hot broth a little at a time. Instead just pour all the liquid in a once and simmer away. Super simple.
Some quick nutrition about tomatoes: We get more lycopene (the phytonutrient that gives tomatoes their red color) per gram from cooked tomatoes compared to raw. Lycopene may be protective against prostate cancer and cervical cancer. According to nutritionfacts.org, the yellow pigment found around tomato seeds inhibits platelet activation without affecting clotting, which may explain why eating tomato products is associated with lower cardiac mortality. Cooking acidic foods like tomato sauce in an aluminum pot is not advised, because acids make aluminum leach into your food. It is also advised to consume at least some fat with your meal when eating fruits and vegetables to maximize the body’s absorption of fat-soluble vitamins.
I have served these beauties to adults and kids alike and they are always a huge hit. If you’re not in the mood for a hot dish, these are equally at good room temperature. I’ll eat two as a vegetarian entree with a grilled vegetable salad or a green salad with corn and avocado and that is the perfect summer meal for me. Or serve each person one as a side dish with a simple piece of sole or halibut with lemon and herbs plus an arugula salad. Don’t forget the chilled rosé!
- 8 medium, firm-ripe tomatoes on the vine with small stems
- 4 Tablespoons unrefined, cold pressed extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ cup chopped onion
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- ⅔ cup medium-grain white rice
- ¾ teaspoon sea salt + an extra pinch
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)
- 2 Tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
- 2 Tablespoons fresh basil leaves, chopped
- ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese
- Cut tops from tomatoes about ½ inch from stems (keep leaves and small stems attached) and set aside. Working over a food processor and using a teaspoon, carefully scoop out tomato pulp and juices, leaving only the outer walls. Purée pulp and juices, then measure; add enough water to get to 2 ¼ cups. If necessary, trim a very thin slice from base of tomatoes so they sit flat (if you get a hole, patch from the inside with a tomato slice).
- Heat 3 tbsp. oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook onion and garlic, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add rice, sea salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper, stirring to coat. Stir in tomato purée and water mixture.
- Simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, until liquid is reduced to the surface of rice, 8 to 10 minutes. Continue to simmer if the liquid still needs to be reduced further. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook, stirring once or twice, until rice is cooked through, about 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, preheat oven to 450° with a rack in the top third of oven. Grease a shallow baking dish with some of remaining oil. Stir parsley, basil, and cheese into risotto. Divide risotto evenly among tomato shells, mounding it a bit, and set in oiled dish, rice side up. Brush reserved tomato tops with oil and loosely set on tomatoes. Sprinkle tops with sea salt if you like.
- Bake until tomatoes soften a bit, 12 to 15 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.