stuffed tomatoes

A Vegetarian, Gluten Free Side Dish

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My freezer broke last week.

Fortunately I still have my original, trusted, reliable old freezer from the stone age in my basement. I transferred the meat and soups, casseroles and other goodies that I had cooked. Anything that could be saved.

Unfortunately quite a lot wasn't worth saving, so I threw away lots of stuff. Half a cake that no one liked and made me wonder why I had saved it anyway. Breads with 2 slices left that were stuck together with ice crystals. A chicken leg, freezer burned because the plastic wrap had fallen off. Like that.

It felt so good to get that freezer empty and clean, ready for the repairman, that I started on the cabinets. I discarded anything out of the sell-by date; open boxes of cereal, crackers that I had placed in plastic bins who knows when, 2/3 eaten jars of peanut butter. Like that.

I also cooked some of the stuff that was still good.

The sorghum for example.

In case you haven't cooked with it or know what it is, sorghum is a cereal grain. Easy to use, tasty and gluten free. I had tried some at the Wondergrain booth at the Fancy Food Show last year and then used some for stuffing. I love the texture and the fact that it is so versatile I can use it for so many different kinds of dishes.

Last night I mixed it with vegetables to use as a side dish with dinner. Not only did it taste good, it was colorful and lovely to look at on the plate, which always makes dinner much nicer. Early in the day I stuffed the sorghum-veggie mix into hollowed out tomatoes and baked them several hours later, so this is a good make-ahead dish.

Sorghum Stuffed Tomatoes

  • 8 large tomatoes
  • 1 cup sorghum grain
  • 3 cups vegetable stock and/or water
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 medium onions, sliced
  • 1 small chili pepper, deseeded and chopped
  • 1 large clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped cooked vegetables
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

 

Slice a cap off each tomato and scoop out the insides. Chop the insides and set aside. Place the hollowed out tomatoes upside down on paper towels to drain off excess liquid. Place the sorghum in a saucepan, pour in the stock and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan and cook for 35-40 minutes or until the sorghum is tender and the liquid has been absorbed. (If the liquid has not been absorbed and the grains are tender, strain off the liquid.) Set the cooked sorghum aside. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Heat the vegetable oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3-4 minutes or until slightly softened. Add the chili pepper, garlic and tomato insides and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the cooked vegetables and stir them in. Spoon the vegetables and any cooking fluids into the pan with the sorghum. Stir to distribute the ingredients evenly. Stir in the parsley and salt and pepper. Place the tomatoes on a baking sheet. Spoon the ingredients into the hollowed out tomatoes. Bake for about 20 minutes or until hot.

Makes 8 servings

 

 

Stuffed Grape Tomatoes

Every New Year’s Eve I invite the same people — my brother Jeff and sister-in-law Eileen and my cousins, Leslie and Neil. This has been our tradition for so many years that none of us can remember (or care to remember) what we did before. 
 Our kids used to be part of our celebration but they’re all adults now and the six of us have grown older together. 
 The photos are telling. 
 We spend the afternoon together, nibbling the hors d’oeuvre. Dinner is hours later and then we wait a few more hours for dessert. There’s no need to rush or to stuff ourselves all at once! 
 We put on silly hats, watch the ball in Times Square come down, toot some cardboard horns, hug each other and, to paraphrase the Haggadah, we say “Next Year in Stamford!” 
 I can’t imagine a better way to spend the evening. I feel so lucky, lucky, lucky to have these people in my life. 
 I cook the same dinner every year: rib roast, roasted potatoes and a vegetable that we all eat, like carrots or green string beans. 
 Except Eileen doesn’t eat meat so I cook a separate chicken breast (well-done to her tastes — she calls it “dead”) for her. 
 Dessert? Always an  apple pie  and a  fruit crisp  of one kind or another. Nothing fancy and it’s what we all like. 
 Hors d’oeuvres too. They’re mostly the same every year, but here’s where I try to experiment a bit on willing victims. So in addition to the smoked fish and  gougeres  and maybe some  stuffed dates , I might make these Stuffed Grape Tomatoes. 
 Next Year in Stamford! 

 Stuffed Grape Tomatoes* 
  4 ounces ricotta cheese  
 4 ounces cream cheese 
  2 scallions, chopped  
  1 clove garlic, cut into quarters  
  1/4 cup halved, pitted black olives  
  2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley  
  2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil  
  1 teaspoon thyme leaves  
  1 teaspoon Dijon mustard  
 2 tablespoons lemon juice 
  2 tablespoons to 1/2 cup plain yogurt  
  salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste  
  18 grape tomatoes  

 Place the ricotta cheese and cream cheese together in a food processor and process until creamy and well blended. Add the scallions, garlic, olives, parsley, basil, thyme, mustard and lemon juice and process until well blended. Add about 2 tablespoons yogurt and process, adding more yogurt if necessary, depending on what you will use the mixture for. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Wash the tomatoes and cut them in half. Scoop out the insides and spoon the cheese mixture into the tomato hollows. Makes about 36 

 *You can use this as a dip instead of filling tomatoes: add more yogurt to give the mixture a softer, more dip-like consistency.

Every New Year’s Eve I invite the same people — my brother Jeff and sister-in-law Eileen and my cousins, Leslie and Neil. This has been our tradition for so many years that none of us can remember (or care to remember) what we did before.

Our kids used to be part of our celebration but they’re all adults now and the six of us have grown older together.

The photos are telling.

We spend the afternoon together, nibbling the hors d’oeuvre. Dinner is hours later and then we wait a few more hours for dessert. There’s no need to rush or to stuff ourselves all at once!

We put on silly hats, watch the ball in Times Square come down, toot some cardboard horns, hug each other and, to paraphrase the Haggadah, we say “Next Year in Stamford!”

I can’t imagine a better way to spend the evening. I feel so lucky, lucky, lucky to have these people in my life.

I cook the same dinner every year: rib roast, roasted potatoes and a vegetable that we all eat, like carrots or green string beans.

Except Eileen doesn’t eat meat so I cook a separate chicken breast (well-done to her tastes — she calls it “dead”) for her.

Dessert? Always an apple pie and a fruit crisp of one kind or another. Nothing fancy and it’s what we all like.

Hors d’oeuvres too. They’re mostly the same every year, but here’s where I try to experiment a bit on willing victims. So in addition to the smoked fish and gougeres and maybe some stuffed dates, I might make these Stuffed Grape Tomatoes.

Next Year in Stamford!

Stuffed Grape Tomatoes*

4 ounces ricotta cheese

4 ounces cream cheese

2 scallions, chopped

1 clove garlic, cut into quarters

1/4 cup halved, pitted black olives

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

1 teaspoon thyme leaves

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons to 1/2 cup plain yogurt

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

18 grape tomatoes

Place the ricotta cheese and cream cheese together in a food processor and process until creamy and well blended. Add the scallions, garlic, olives, parsley, basil, thyme, mustard and lemon juice and process until well blended. Add about 2 tablespoons yogurt and process, adding more yogurt if necessary, depending on what you will use the mixture for. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Wash the tomatoes and cut them in half. Scoop out the insides and spoon the cheese mixture into the tomato hollows. Makes about 36

*You can use this as a dip instead of filling tomatoes: add more yogurt to give the mixture a softer, more dip-like consistency.

Tomatoes Stuffed with Bulgur Wheat, Raisins and Pine Nuts

Although it’s a nice reminder, it doesn’t have to be Meatless Monday for me to want a vegetarian dinner. Sometimes I am just sick of meat.  I grew up in the kind of house where dinner was the traditional: meat, starch, vegetable. We sometimes had vegetarian meals although my mother never called them that. When dinner included no meat or fish it was called a “dairy” meal. Once in a while my mother made a veggie burger, but that was rare indeed.  There was never anything like you see in the photo here: a tomato stuffed with bulgur wheat, toasted pignolis, raisins and fresh spinach.   Styles have changed. I still prepare the kind of dinners my mother made, although usually it’s meat and two vegetables and only sometimes a starch. This is the way I am used to eating.  But, as I said, sometimes I need a change, meaning a good vegetarian dinner, like this stuffed tomato. By itself it may not be enough for dinner, so add a soup or other vegetarian item to make a meal of it. Or serve two per person. It also goes nicely with grilled fish.   

Although it’s a nice reminder, it doesn’t have to be Meatless Monday for me to want a vegetarian dinner. Sometimes I am just sick of meat.

I grew up in the kind of house where dinner was the traditional: meat, starch, vegetable. We sometimes had vegetarian meals although my mother never called them that. When dinner included no meat or fish it was called a “dairy” meal. Once in a while my mother made a veggie burger, but that was rare indeed.

There was never anything like you see in the photo here: a tomato stuffed with bulgur wheat, toasted pignolis, raisins and fresh spinach. 

Styles have changed. I still prepare the kind of dinners my mother made, although usually it’s meat and two vegetables and only sometimes a starch. This is the way I am used to eating.

But, as I said, sometimes I need a change, meaning a good vegetarian dinner, like this stuffed tomato. By itself it may not be enough for dinner, so add a soup or other vegetarian item to make a meal of it. Or serve two per person. It also goes nicely with grilled fish.

 

Tomatoes Stuffed with Bulgur Wheat, Raisins and Pine Nuts

 

  • 6 large tomatoes
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 large clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 bunch spinach, washed thoroughly, dried and chopped
  • 1/2 cup bulgur wheat
  • 1 cup water or vegetable stock
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

 

Slice off top part of the tomatoes and scoop the insides (save the pulp for other recipes). Sprinkle the insides of the tomatoes with salt and pepper. Place the tomatoes upside down on a rack. Heat one tablespoon olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the pine nuts and cook for 2-3 minutes or until lightly toasted. Remove the nuts and set aside. Add the remaining olive oil to the pan. Add the onion and cook for 2-3 minutes or until just beginning to soften. Add the garlic and spinach and cook for 2-3 minutes or until the spinach has wilted. Add the bulgur wheat and mix ingredients. Add the water, bring the liquid to a boil, then remove the pan from the heat. Cover the pan and let rest for 25-30 minutes or until all the liquid has been absorbed. Add the raisins, parsley, dill, mint and lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Toss ingredients and spoon into the hollowed tomatoes.

Makes 6 servings.

Quickie Hors D'oeuvre

Warmer weather means more company. At least at our house. Whether it’s Passover or Memorial Day or just a nice, sunny afternoon or balmy evening, there’s more entertaining to do.

And that means more food. Including hors d’oeuvre. Quickies. The kind you can make when you weren’t even expecting company. The kind you can whip up with a few household staples.

Like Temp Tee Whipped Cream cheese, which you can mix with all sorts of ingredients to create almost instant spreads and dips for crudites, chips, crackers, matzo. Whatever. 

I confess that Temp Tee hooked up with JoyofKosher.com and several food bloggers, asking us to create recipes using their product. It was amazingly easy for me to do though because I had been a fan for ages. I recently mentioned it in a post about when my mom “discovered” this product, and gave recipes for Inside Out Strawberries Romanoff and Baked Stuffed Potatoes.

For hors d’oeuvre it couldn’t be easier. Here’s how: place some of the cream cheese in a food processor (blender, hand mixer and bowl), add some flavoring ingredients and mix away until the spread is more or less uniform. To make a spread into a dip, mix in dairy sour cream or plain yogurt until it becomes the consistency you need.

Most of the time I use smoked or cooked salmon as the primary flavoring ingredient. (btw, you can buy the MUCH cheaper smoked salmon pieces that some stores sell rather than the expensive, hand sliced slices). But any smoked fish will do: trout, mackerel, bluefish. Because the smokey taste and the cream cheese richness are perfect together.

I always add some sort of onion: scallion, shallot, cooked leeks, red onion, plus citrus juice to give the spread a fresh zip of taste.

The other ingredients? You really don’t need any, but I always have horseradish or mustard in the house and frequently have dill or parsley in the fridge, so I add some for extra flavor. Or use freshly ground black pepper or a chili pepper.

It all works so well. You taste a little, add an ingredient, taste again and you make the spread the way you want it.

You don’t actually need fish. Deli items will do too: olives, marinated artichoke hearts, sun dried tomatoes, capers, pickles, and so on.

Same process: place the cream cheese plus deli item(s) in the food processor, add something oniony plus citrus juice and whirl away.

And there you have it.

Make entertaining easy on yourself with these recipes for Smoked Salmon and Dill Spread and Herbed Cheese Spread. You can use either spread as is or stuff into hollowed out vegetables like cherry or grape tomatoes, cucumber rounds, zucchini and so on.