"The only real stumbling block is the fear of failure. In cooking, you have got to have a what-the-hell attitude." ~ Julia Child

Stuffed, roasted tomatoes, Bad Home Cook style (OMG!)

by Julie Tilsner on October 6, 2008

in Minor Miracles, Dinner, Vegetarian

Molly made me do it. That would be Molly, of Orangette fame. A few deft words from her and I was inspired enough to try something I ordinarily would never touch with a 10-foot fork.

Roasted, stuffed tomatoes, topped with breadcrumbs.

Her most recent blog post waxed passionate about these roasted tomatoes, stuffed with Arborio rice and seasoned tomato pulp. they’re adapted from a family recipe writer Luisa Weiss detailed on her lovely blog, The Wednesday Chef.

Lots of food bloggers try out each other’s recipes. And while I’ve been tempted to try my hand at a few, I am the Bad Home Cook, after all. I know my limitations. Still the recipe didn’t sound very complicated (famous last words). And I knew that with October here, my time for tomatoes was running out. What was I doing that evening, anyway?

Here’s the recipe, via Molly, via Luisa:

4 large, good tasting tomatoes (question – how do you know they’re good tasting before you taste them? Never mind.)
1 small yellow onion, diced
olive oil
1/3 cup Arborio rice
1/3 cup water
5 fresh basil leaves
2 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, sliced into 1/4-inch slices

Behead the tomatoes and scoop out the guts; juice, seeds, flesh, all of it, into a small bowl. Lightly oil a 9×13” pan and place the empty tomato hulls inside. Pull out some of the chunkier bits of flesh from the bowl and chop it. Replace.

In a medium (2-quart) saucepan, warm a chug of olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently until soft and translucent. Add the rice and continue to cook, stirring for another minute or so. Add the tomato guts and the water, plus the basil. “Season expertly,” reduce the heat slightly,  cover the pot and simmer for ten minutes. Taste, and add salt as needed.

Spoon the rice glop (the rice will be par-cooked) into the tomatoes. Top with a sprinkling of breadcrumbs. Arrange the potato slices around the tomatoes in the pan, and give everything a good drizzle of olive oil. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes. The tomatoes should be shriveled up a bit, having released their juices, and the potatoes should have cooked through.

Some Bad Home Cook standard screw-ups: I bought four relatively good-smelling tomatoes, since I figured that if they smelled good they would also taste good. None of what I found at my particularly feeble farmer’s market had that sweet/tangy smell of a vine-ripened tomato. So I had to work with what I found. Alas, they weren’t as juicy as I’d hoped, and scooping them out took some work. I know it’s October and tomato season for the rest of the world is long over. But it’s been 90 degrees here with scorching Santa Anas. Is it too much to ask for ripe tomatoes for our suffering?

I ran out of olive oil and had to borrow my neighbor’s. I didn’t have breadcrumbs, either. I had panko, which is Japanese-style breadcrumbs. Heavier and crunchier than breadcrumbs.

With the kids running in and out and my neighbor commiserating with me in the kitchen, this took almost an hour to prepare. Then I noticed it would take another hour and 15 to bake.

Really, this was all becoming a big pain in the ass.

Until I pulled them out of the oven. Now here was the tomato smell I was talkin’ about. My four tomatoes were bubbling away, barely holding onto the juiciness within. The panko had browned nicely on top, to my great delight. But as we know, appearances mean nothing. I fobbed one off on Luke when he left after visiting the kids, feeling that he would appreciate hot, free, already-prepared food no matter what it tasted like, and waited another few hours to try my own, in the dark of my own midnight kitchen. I expected the worst.

Oh. My. God. Intense, warm tomato flavor filled in with chewy, filling starch and topped with a satisfying crunch. The first mouthful was followed unthinkingly by a second, then a third, and so on, with barely a pause to breath, until my tomato was gone and I was left to lick the plate.

That I made this bon-bon was truly a miracle in itself. Results like these give me the glimpses of glory I need to keep cooking despite every indication to the contrary.

My only tactical error? Giving one away.


{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

elfini (Dawn) October 7, 2008 at 9:28 am

What about the potatoes?!


JulieR October 8, 2008 at 2:28 am

Roasting the tomatoes concentrates the sugars so they inevitably come out tasting richer, and sweeter. I had a particularly uninspiring batch of roma tomatoes last summer (I haven’t quite figured out how to garden in the subtropical, southern hemisphere where I now live)and ended up roasting most of them with olive oil, salt and pepper, and whatever herbs I had on hand until they were almost dried and they were delicious.


Angie the Pangie October 8, 2008 at 4:45 pm

I prefer Panko to bread crumbs any day. Excellent replacement.


bad home cook October 8, 2008 at 4:53 pm

Elfini – the potatoes? Oh they didn’t cook through, natch. Why do ask?…
Julia: I can just taste your tomatoes…and know that I don’t dare try it myself lest I burn my kitchen down…you’ll have to come visit.
Angie: Thank you! And I like anyone named Angie Pangie (who likes panko!)


"Mister J" October 11, 2008 at 12:40 am

In the winter, I often slow roast tomatoes anyway. Wnter tomatoes need to thos sugars to be released
Still think you should write to the “Take Home Chef” on TLC so you get to take him home and he cooks for you as you learn something! It’s fun having a film crew around following you!


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