Monday, August 16, 2010

Giant, Beautiful Tomatoes

I received two large tomatoes in my produce box this week. What better use could there be than stuffed tomatoes?

If you're cooking for just a couple people, I advise you to go ahead and make the full quantity of the stuffing. Stuff the tomatoes you're cooking today (or refrigerating to cook tomorrow) and freeze the remainder of the stuffing. Next time, they'll be super-easy to make: just defrost, stuff, and bake!

If you make a little extra each time you cook a freezer-friendly recipe, you'll quickly build up meals to defrost & cook for those nights when take-out looks awfully tempting. Don't ruin your budget; just plan ahead a bit. 

Spiced Lamb Stuffed Tomatoes

  • 2 large, ripe tomatoes, each about the size of your fist - - don't worry if they're not super-ripe. I think this recipe works best if they're still a bit firm. 
  • 4 more tomatoes if you're not freezing extra stuffing for later
  • 2 TB butter
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • 1/2 c. dry red wine
  • 1/4 c. chopped fresh mint
  • 2 TB chopped fresh parsley
  • Additional chopped parsley for garnish (1-2 tsp per tomato) 
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3/4 c. cooked rice (I used brown) - - just put some stir-fry on your menu a couple days before, cook extra rice with it, and you'll be ready to go when it's time to make these!
  • 2 tsp dry, plain breadcrumbs (1 tsp per tomato)
  • 2 TB grated Parmesan cheese (1 TB per tomato)

Slice the top 1/3 off each tomato. Chop this slice after removing the core.

Scoop out the inside of the big tomato piece.

When done, you'll have something that looks like this --->   

On the bottom right in the photo, you can see the innards I scooped out of each tomato. If you're making the recipe using 6 tomatoes (and stuffing all of them), you'll dice all the tops but save the innards for a different use (or discard). But if you're making the recipe using only 2 tomatoes, make up for the missing slices (like I did) by using both the tops and the innards as ingredients in the stuffing. 

Melt the butter in a large, heavy skillet (cast iron works great).

Saute the chopped onion until tender and golden.

Add the lamb and cook until browned. You also can use leftover leg of lamb; if doing so, just cook it with the onion long enough to warm it up.

While the onion and lamb are cooking is a great time to gather the rest of your ingredients.

Once the lamb is browned, add the tomatoes, wine, mint, parsley, cinnamon, and salt.

Reduce heat and simmer until the mixture thickens. This only takes a few minutes.

Stir in the cooked rice. The resulting mixture isn't the prettiest thing I've ever seen, but it tastes great! 

Spoon the mixture into your tomatoes. Sprinkle each tomato with about a teaspoon of breadcrumbs and a tablespoon of Parmesan cheese.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes, until heated through. Before serving, sprinkle with a bit more chopped parsley.

You can make these ahead, too. Once the tomatoes are stuffed, cover and refrigerate. When you're ready to bake them, you'll just need to add about 10 minutes to the cooking time.

If you're only stuffing a couple of tomatoes now, you can freeze the leftover stuffing for 2-3 months or refrigerate for 3-4 days. If you're not sure how long leftovers are safe, check out!

I can't wait until I receive more large tomatoes from The Produce Box; I have stuffing in my freezer, just waiting for them.

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