Stuffed Tomatoes

Even though we’re well into Autum now, it’s a beautiful day in Groningen and I am feeling summery. By coincidence, one of the vendors at the market carried large (VERY large!) beefsteak tomatoes today, a rare event around here. One can buy decent tomatoes, to be sure, but to find large ones, large enough to stuff, that is, happens only once or twice a year. And so today I set about making one of my favourite summer dishes from Greece: stuffed tomatoes.

First, I sweated 2 small onions in a few tablespoons of olive oil. This dish likes olive oil, so one need not, nay, one must not be shy with the oil. Sweat those for 10 minutes over low heat, while you prepare the tomatoes. I had 6 large tomatoes at hand today. Handling the ripe tomatoes gingerly, wash them and slice off their tops and place aside. With a spoon or combination of knife and spoon, carefully scoop out the flesh and reserve in a bowl. Ideally, you want just the outer flesh of each tomato to remain and no punctures (though those can also occur during cooking, so no need to worry too much). Chop the flesh in smaller pieces. A little variety in size is a good thing here; it’s a rustic, peasant dish, after all. The onions should be cooked at this point, so turn the heat off, add 2 cups of long-grain rice, about three quarters of the tomato flesh (reserve the rest for making tomato sauce on another occasion), and half a cup of chopped flat-leafed parsley. Season well with salt, add a quarter of a cup of olive oil and three and a half cups of water. The amount of water depends a bit on how watery the tomatoes are, so you may have to experiment a bit to get the right proportions. The mix in the photos is about right. Season the inside of the tomatoes with a little salt and stuff them two-thirds-full with the rice mixture. Make sure the water/rice proportion is maintained in each tomato, more or less. Ladle the rest of the mixture around the tomatoes and top each one with its pretty, green-tufted cap. Drizzle more olive oil over the tomatoes and place in a preheated 180˚C oven for about one and a half hours, until the rice is cooked and the tomatoes have a beautiful roasted colour. They are best served at room temperature and keep very well for a couple of days. Enjoy!