With summer in full swing, tomatoes are plentiful. An inexpensive, but impressive, method for using summer’s bounty is to stuff tomatoes with bread, cheese, and aromatics. Follow the GET CHEFFY TIP(s) throughout the recipe below to create a beautiful side dish, or an excellent main course, out of the humble, and versatile tomato
FOR THE TOMATOES:
- 8-9 medium tomatoes or 5-6 large tomatoes
- Ground Black Pepper and salt
- 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
FOR THE STUFFING:
- 5-6 slices of bread
- We used sourdough, but white, wheat, etc. can all be used.
- 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) of unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1/4 cup white/rose wine (optional)
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1 cup cup shredded cheese
- Both hard, and soft cheeses work for these tomatoes. We use a combination of white cheddar and provolone, but mozzarella, parmesan, and almost any cheese you enjoy, will work well.
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium or 1/2 of a large red onion
- Ground Black Pepper and salt
- 1/2 tablespoon garlic powder
- Begin by browning your butter. Take your 1/2 stick of unsalted butter, and place over medium/low heat for 5-7 minutes. Swirl your pan occasionally to move the butter solids around and ensure even cooking.
- While your butter heats, turn to your red onion and chop into a medium dice. Perfect knife skills aren’t necessary here, as you’ll be putting your mixture trough the food processor later.
- Continue to let the liquid butter gradually heat until you see a color change, and notice a difference in the smell. Lower your burner as needed if your butter is browning too quickly; remove your pan completely from the burner and gently swirl away from the heat on occasion.
- Once the color of your butter has turned a tawny brown, and begins to smell like toast, add your chopped onion and your 2 tablespoons of tomato paste. Season your onion with 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, and your 1/4 red pepper flakes. Stir your mixture together until your onion is coated with tomato paste. Allow to cook over low heat for 5-10 minutes. After 5-10 minutes, your onions should be softened, and the moisture it released into your pan should be evaporating. If your mixture is moving too quickly, deglaze with your 1/4 cup wine, or add a few tablespoons of water. Ensure that your heat is on low. After your onions have softened, and your mixture has obtained an overall “rust-brown” color, add your teaspoon of minced garlic, and continue to cook for 1-2 minutes. Once your garlic has cooked, and your mixture has reduced, take a small amount on a spoon, and give it a taste. Some of the “heat/spice” will dissipate when mixed with the bread and cheese in the final dish. Add any additional salt you feel your mixture may need and, with a spatula, scrape all of your onion/tomato paste mixture into a large bowl to cool. Set aside. If your pan is oven safe, keep it around to use as your final cooking vessel for your stuffed tomatoes.
- Most spices, like ground black pepper, and red pepper flakes, are fat soluble, meaning that they need to be in an oil/fat in order to release their flavor compounds. Allowing your pepper blend to gently heat in butter ensures even cooking, and fully “bloomed” flavors.
- Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.
- With a large knife, chop your bread into 1/2 inch squares. You’re aiming for small-ish chunks of bread here, about the size of a crouton. Place your bread on a sheet tray, and drizzle your 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1/2 tablespoon of garlic powder, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon ground black pepper. Using your hands, combine the bread, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and oil on your sheet tray until each bread square is evenly coated with oil and seasoning. Put your sheet tray in the oven at 425 degrees for 5 minutes. After the initial 5 minutes, remove the sheet tray, and turn/flip your bread with a spatula (you don’t need to flip them one by one). Place your sheet tray back in the oven for an additional 5 minutes. After another 5 minutes (10 minutes total), remove your sheet tray again, and check on the progress. You want an even, toasted color on all of your bread pieces. Depending on your oven strength, you may need to continue toasting your bread cubes. Check on your bread every 2-3 minutes at this point, stirring and flipping your bread pieces every time you pull them out of the oven. Once all of your bread is toasted, remove your sheet tray and bread cubes from the oven, and allow to cool out of the oven. Increase your now-empty oven to 450 degrees……taste one of your bread squares too! How’d you do?….they’re probably delicious, and should taste like well seasoned salad croutons.
GET CHEFFY TIP!- Day Old Bread vs. Toasted Bread– Day old bread can be used here, but toasting bread is a very different thing than using stale, or day old, bread. Bread that has gone stale still has its moisture in it, but that moisture has been “tucked away” into the starch molecules of the bread; that moisture will come back out of the bread when it’s heated. We don’t want additional moisture in this application. Toasting, or drying out fresh bread in your oven, is a completely different process. Through direct heat, you are removing the moisture out of your bread and evaporating it into the heat of the oven, never to be seen again (#melodrama). Bread that has been toasted and dried will absorb far more liquid than stale, or day old bread.
- While your bread cools, and your oven heats up to 450 degrees, turn your attention to your tomatoes, and begin to remove their “caps”. This means to cut the top 1/4 (or even slightly less) off your tomato, on the vine end. The goal is to leave as much of a “vessel”, or container, for your stuffing, so don’t cut the tomato too far down towards its “equator”.
- Using a spoon, scrape the seeds and pulp out your tomatos and save the caps, and interior pulp in your Get Cheffy stock bag that you keep in your freezer. Tomatoes are high in a component called “glutamates” and will boost the flavor profile of any stock.
- If your spoon isn’t fully working to remove the tomato innards, take a small, serrated knife, and gently work around the opening you’ve made in the tomato to loosen its membranes from the walls of the tomatoes.
- Depending on the size of your tomatoes, take 1/2 teaspoon to 1/4 teaspoon salt for each tomato and season the interiors. Set the hollowed out tomatoes aside while you prepare your baking dish.
- If your tomatoes are truly enormous, beefsteak monsters (close to, or over the 1 pound mark), cut them in half after you’ve removed their caps.
- If the pan you cooked your onions in is oven safe, ensure that it’s cooled down to room temperature, and then brush 1/2 tablespoon, or up to 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the bottom of the pan. If you’re using a baking dish to cook your tomatoes, follow the same steps. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon salt over the oil in your pan, or baking dish, and then place your tomato shells into your dish. Brush the outsides of the tomatoes with the oil and salt mixture at the bottom of your pan or dish.
- While your hollowed tomatoes sit, take your cooled bread cubes, and place them into a food processor. Pulse your food processor 10-15 times to begin chopping up your bread. After 10-15 pulses, take a look at your bread mixture. It should still have some large-ish chunks of bread in it, but the bottom should be looking like coarse sand. Add all of your onion mixture, and your basil and chives (reserving 1+ teaspoon of fresh herbs to garnish). Run your food processor for 5-10 seconds and check your mixture again. Your onion mixture should be fully incorporated, and your herbs should be dispersed evenly. If needed, continue to process for 5 second intervals until you have a cohesive mixture.
- If you don’t have fresh herbs, dried herbs work beautifully as well. Dried herbs have a more concentrated flavor, so use a smaller amount.
- Don’t have a food processor either? All of this combining can be done in a large plastic bag. Simply pour everything into the bag, and start working things together by hitting the bag with a rolling pin, bottom of a heavy pan, or crushing things together with your hands.
- Once your bread, onion mixture, and herbs have all been combined, empty your, now blended, mixture back into your bowl, and add your 1 cup of shredded cheese (reserve 1-2+ tablespoons to top each tomato). Stir to combine.
- Stuff each tomato with your mixture. Depending on the size of your tomatoes, and the amount of bread you used, you may have very full, or slightly less full tomatoes. Eye ball your mixture and aim to use 1/2 of the bowl in your first 1/2 of tomato shells. Don’t get hung up on getting equal amounts into each tomato. Once you’ve stuffed one tomato, place it back into it’s oiled pan/cooking dish, and continue until all of your stuffing has been used, and each tomato is full. Top each tomato with additional cheese, and bake at 450 degrees for 5-7 minutes. Check your tomatoes at the 5 minute mark. The skin should be sizzling and just beginning to peel and split. If need be continue cooking until the tops of your tomatos are golden brown. Remove from the oven, allow to cool. Give a final garnish with your reserved 1 teaspoon of fresh herb and serve.
GET CHEFFY TIP! Our stuffed tomatoes are vegetarian, but you can easily add more richness, and serve them as a main course, by adding cooked ground sausage, cooked/seasoned beef, cooked bacon, or anything else that you like. Add any cooked meats to the mixture at the same time you add your shredded cheese, and bake as normal.
GET CHEFFY TIP! “Make my own bread cubes/crumbs?!?!……no way”. If making your own bread mixture is a non-starter for you, don’t feel any shame. You can use store bought bread crumbs, with a few modifications. Boxed bread crumbs can be overly fine/small in their texture, so reach for Panko bread crumbs, which tend to be larger and crispier than most standard bread crumbs, if your’e going to use store bought. If you want to attempt this with boxed bread crumbs, add 2 extra tablespoons of olive or vegetable oil to your onion mixture after your onions have cooked for their 5-10 minutes. Add 1-1.5 cups of Panko bread crumbs into your mix and stir the mixture together; allow the bread to toast, and absorb the oil, and flavoring, (3-4 minutes) before adding the cheese, and stuffing the tomatoes……failing that, a box of stuffing, or packs of your favorite crumbled crackers can all be used. Get creative with it!…..the stuffed tomato police will not come and arrest you….
GET CHEFFY TIP! Serve these for breakfast with the addition of an egg. After you’ve stuffed each tomato with your bread and onion mixture, create a small depression in your stuffing with the back of a spoon (enough of a divot to hold an egg). Gently crack an egg into each tomato, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and increase the time in the oven from 5-7 minutes to 9-10 minutes; you may need to broil the tops of the eggs for 1-2 minutes, depending on how done you like your egg yolks.