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08/05/2014

~ How to: Hollow Out Tomatoes for Stuffing Them ~

IMG_9960My motto:  Almost anything tastes better with a tomato and almost anything tastes better in a tomato.  The tomato season is finally upon us here in Central PA (we wait all year long for it in this part of the country), and with each passing day, Joe's harvest gets larger. When I can no longer keep up with eating them just as they are or adding them to sandwiches and salads, one of my favorite things to do is stuff them.  I'll be sharing one or two of my favorite recipes for stuffed tomatoes this week, so I thought I'd share my easy method for prepping tomato shells.

IMG_9999Whether it's garden-ripe tomatoes stuffed with fresh ingredients and eaten cold as a Summer salad; Winter tomatoes stuffed with precooked fillings then baked and eaten hot as a comforting side-dish; or, just because stuffed tomatoes are a great way to individually portion and elegantly present all kinds of food, follow these instructions for tasty stuffed tomatoes all year long:

IMG_9965~ Step 1.  Choose large (medium or small), ripe (not overly ripe), round, firm, even-sized tomatoes.  This will, of course, make for a prettier presentation, but more importantly, if your tomatoes are destined to be baked in the oven:  even size = even baking time.  Using a serrated knife, cut of a 1/2" slice from the stem snd of each tomato.

IMG_9969~ Step 2.  Using a grapefruit knife, carefully cut (so as not to pierce the outer skin) around the circumference of the opened-up end, about 1/4" all the way around.  

Note:  Use the point where the firm meat meets the pulp as a guide.

Gently work/poke the curved tip of the grapefruit knife down to the bottom of the tomato (again being careful not to pierce the skin) and lift out the soft center and core.

IMG_9975~ Step 3.  Using a grapefruit spoon, scrape, scoop and hollow out as much of the juicy pulp, seeds and loosened pieces as possible.

Note:  Use the portions of the tomato you removed as directed (sometimes they get added to the cooked filling) or compost them.

Repeat this process with all remaining tomatoes.

IMG_9980~ Step 4.  Lightly salt the insides of the tomato shells, turn them upside down and place them on several layers of paper towels.  Set them aside to drain, about 20 minutes.

Note:  A little bit of salt adds more than flavor, it "sweats" the excess moisture from the shells.

Tomatos are ready to be stuffed with previously prepared ingredients (like chicken, tuna, crab or pasta salad) and served cold, or:

Tomatos are ready to be stuffed with previously cooked ingredients (meat mixtures, vegetable sautes, rice and/or couscous), baked and served hot.  For best results, make sure precooked filling is at room temperature prior to stuffing.

IMG_0006Two Tips from Mel:  

1)  Hollowed out and inverted tomato shells (on paper towels) can be prepared hours in advance or stored in the refrigerator overnight. For best results, stuff tomatoes just prior to baking them.  

2)  When I stuff and bake tomatoes I like to put them in a muffin tin.  Its structure helps them to keep their shape while baking and it makes them easier to serve too.

Stuffing and baking instructions:  Gently place only as much filling as wil comfortably fit into each tomato shell -- don't pack or press it in.  Finish by forming a slight mound of filling at the top of each one.  Bake on center rack of 325 or 350 degree oven, 20-25 minutes.  Do not over bake.

IMG_9985How to:  Hollow Out Tomatoes for Stuffing Them:  Recipe yields instructions to hollow out as many tomato shells as you want to.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; serrated knife; grapefruit knife; grapefruit spoon, paper towels; muffin tin

6a0120a8551282970b0162fc7897c3970dCook's Note:  ~ How to:  Make an Incredible Edible Tomato Rose ~ is a pretty way to garnish all sorts of food.  Some people think they are really hard to make, but they are not.  To learn my method, Click into Categories 15 or 21!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2014)

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