Here’s something new to do with large tomatoes. You could use a large heirloom tomato, or one of the bigger ones that are still hanging on in your garden. This can be a side dish, or a hearty entree, depending on the filling you choose and on the size of the tomatoes.
First, prepare a filling. Really the only rule to follow is that any raw meats or proteins should be cooked before stuffing them into the tomato.
I used mozzarella cheese, some Panko bread crumbs, fresh chopped basil, cooked chopped bacon, grilled corn, salt, pepper and some freshly grated Parmigiano cheese.
You could use Mexican inspired fillings, like cooked taco-seasoned ground beef, chili peppers, shredded Cheddar cheese, sliced jalapenos, and chopped fresh cilantro.
Another nice choice might be broiled shrimp, chopped or sliced garlic, lemon zest, and chopped scallions, with Panko bread crumbs and just a bit of mayonnaise to moisten the stuffing. Season with a spicy Cajun seasoning if you like.
Or for a more gourmet choice, how about rare or medium-rare steak (cut into bite-sized pieces), grilled corn, chopped seeded tomatoes and a little blue cheese?
Go completely vegetarian with roasted or grilled chopped vegetables (zucchini, summer squash, corn, tomatoes, mushrooms,and any other seasonal vegetables that are available and affordable)! Mix the vegetables with a little Panko bread crumbs, some fresh herbs and a little olive oil.
Or make a Greek stuffed tomato, with cooked lamb or beef pieces, chopped red onion, Kalamata olives, chopped tomatoes and crumbled feta cheese, with fresh oregano.
The filling should be moist. The Panko bread crumbs can be eliminated but they do add a little crunch and texture. For a gluten-free option, crumble up some lightly toasted gluten-free bread and substitute that for the Panko crumbs.
Completely scoop out the insides of the tomato, and lightly fill with the mixture (don’t pack the filling in).
Place the tomatoes in a baking dish, or if you’ll be cooking this on an outdoor grill, in a grill-safe pan or dish. Drizzle with a little olive oil.
You can roast the tomatoes now, or bake them, until the tomatoes are soft and the filling is heated throughout (about a half hour at 375 degrees).
For something extra delicious, top the tomatoes with a savory crust. I made a basic pie crust with flour, butter and ice water, and added chopped fresh basil to the crust. I cut out a circle of dough roughly the size of the tomato and baked the tomato with the dough on it. It was like a fresh tomato pie! You could use a store-bought crust or even thawed puff pastry crust, and you can omit the basil or substitute another appropriate herb.
If you need a pie crust refresher course, it’s really easy. The basic rule is 1 part flour, 1/2 part butter or other shortening (vegetable shortening or lard or a combination of those), and 1/4 part ice water. So if you use 2 cups flour, use 1 cup shortening and 1/2 cup ice water. For a smaller recipe, use 1 cup flour, 1/2 cup shortening and 1/4 cup ice water. Simply place the flour in a bowl, use a pastry cutter or a fork to distribute the shortening into the flour (or pulse in a food processor) until the flour and shortening resemble coarse wet sand and stir in the ice water. Knead the dough briefly and gently on a lightly floured surface, and form the dough into a disk. Wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate the dough for about 45 minutes or an hour. Then roll or pat the dough to the desired thickness and cut to the desired size.
For this tomato pie, I used all butter and kneaded in several large basil leaves that I finely chopped. I wanted a savory rustic crust and didn’t make the butter pieces too small. I also sprinkled some coarse salt over the crust before baking the tomato.
Let me know what fillings you can think of for these individual baked tomato pies!