I try to avoid using the oven in the summer. But, with cool, rainy weather in Denver this weekend (and snow forecast in the high country), it seemed like a good time to make an exception to that rule. And with tomatoes in season, it was an excellent opportunity to make baked, stuffed tomatoes.
Of course, tomatoes are good raw or simmered - but there's something magical that happens when they are baked. Perhaps it's similar to the way that roasting brings out another level of flavor in vegetables.
I stuffed my tomatoes with a mixture of feta cheese, fresh herbs, garlic and bread crumbs. However, the great thing about this dish is that you can throw in whatever you have on hand: use mozzarella or parmesan instead of the feta, substitute pre-cooked rice or couscous for the bread crumbs, add sliced kalamata olives or peas.
4 large ripe but firm tomatoes, washed and stems removed
1 cup bread crumbs
5 ounces feta cheese (I like the light feta)
approx 1/3 cup parsley leaves, washed and chopped
approx 1/4 cup basil leaves, washed and chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/2 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Brush a baking dish with one teaspoon olive oil, and set aside.
Cut off a half-inch thick slice from the top of each tomato.* Scoop out and discard the seeds and remaining core, being sure not to puncture the outer wall of the tomato in the process. (I use a serrated spoon for this step).
Set the tomatoes face down on a cutting board to allow any leftover juices to drain.
Combine the bread crumbs, feta, herbs and garlic in a bowl.
Stir in the salt and three tablespoons olive oil.
Working with your hands, gently but firmly pack the filling into the tomato shells. Place the filled tomatoes in the greased baking dish.
Drizzle the remaining two teaspoons of olive oil over the tomatoes.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, uncovered.
After the tomatoes have been removed from the oven, allow them to sit for 10-15 minutes before serving.
*Rather than discarding the top of each tomato, I use the tops to scoop up any leftover filling - yum!