Plump, ripe, brilliant red tomatoes filled with aromatic fresh herbs, whole-wheat garlicky croutons and savory olives and cheese make for a delicious treat. Although stuffed tomatoes are popular in several cuisines, they are especially popular in Italy because of Italians’ love of garden-fresh tomatoes. The French twist comes from using chevre cheese.
Homemade Whole-wheat Croutons
Mixing Bowl and Baking Sheet Method: Preheat oven 350 degrees F. Cut 3 slices stale or lightly toasted whole-grain bread into 1/2-inch squares. In mixing bowl, drizzle bread with 1 tablespoon olive oil and mix in 1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese, 1 teaspoon dried parsley, and 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder. Stir until well combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper. On baking sheet, spread out croutons. Bake 8 minutes, then use spatula to turn over croutons. Bake 8 minutes, or until toasty brown. Allow to cool completely. Makes 1½ cups.
Ovenproof Skillet Method: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cut 3 slices stale or lightly toasted whole-grain bread into 1/2-inch squares. In ovenproof skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add bread cubes, 1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese, 1 teaspoon dried parsley and 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir about 1-2 minutes until croutons are well coated with oil and seasonings. Transfer pan to oven and bake croutons 8 minutes. With spatula, flip croutons and bake 8 minutes, or until golden brown. Allow croutons to cool completely. Makes 1½ cups.
Cut tops off tomatoes and discard. Carefully scoop out tomato pulp onto cutting board. Place tomato shells cut side down on a paper towel and let drain for several minutes. Remove seeds from pulp and discard. Chop remaining pulp and place in strainer to let juice drain.
In mixing bowl, add chopped tomato, croutons, cheese, olives, fresh herbs and Italian seasoning. Dress with oil and vinegar and toss gently, but thoroughly.
In shallow baking dish, place tomato shells. Spoon stuffing mixture into each shell, mounding stuffing on top.
Place stuffed tomatoes under broiler about 5 to 6 inches from electric element or flame. Broil for 5 minutes or until tomatoes are hot and cheese melts. Serve immediately.