The stuffed tomato is a classic Italian dish. This recipe is a version of an Italian tomato panzanella salad and benefits from a little cooking to release the flavours.
4 large or beef tomatoes
200g cubed stale sourdough bread
1 small brown onion, sliced into thin wedges
2 celery sticks, sliced
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 cucumber, peeled, quartered and cut into small triangles
a small bunch of fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
50g freshly grated Parmesan cheese
olive oil, for frying
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to season
mixed salad leaves/greens, to serve (optional)
Slice a thin piece from the base of the tomatoes so they sit upright unaided.
Slice about 1.5cm from the top of the tomatoes, discard these slices or reserve to bake as a cook’s treat.
Carefully scoop out the tomato seeds and flesh and put in a bowl. Crush the seeds and flesh with the back of a fork to a coarse pulp.
Cover the base of a frying pan/skillet with olive oil and set over a medium heat. Once the oil sizzles when a cube of bread is dropped into the pan, add the rest of the bread and fry for 2-3 minutes, carefully tossing the bread cubes repeatedly to coat with oil and crisp up. Reduce the heat, then add the onion wedges, celery and crushed garlic and reduce the heat to cook over a low heat, tossing occasionally until the onions and celery have become translucent.
Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4. When ready to serve (no sooner or the bread will go soggy), mix the cooked ingredients with the tomato pulp, cucumber and basil. Season with a generous pinch of salt and the balsamic vinegar.
Stuff the tomatoes with the mixture and arrange on a baking sheet. Lightly cover with grated Parmesan and a little black pepper.
Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes and serve immediately as a starter or with mixed salad leaves for a main meal.
Extracted from The Mediterranean Table (Ryland Peters & Small, approx €24). Photography © Ryland Peters & Small.