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Stuffed Tomatoes Provençal
You can do most of this ahead of time, and just pop them into the oven for a quick side dish or appetizer that is sure to impress your guests.
4 medium ripe tomatoes
3 tablespoons olive puree or tapenade
2 ounces crumbled goat cheese, chilled (feta works well here)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
1/4 cup fresh thyme or basil, or a combination, finely chopped
1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs
Fresh thyme, basil, or parsley leaves for garnish
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Stem the tomatoes and cut them in half width-wise. Using a small spoon, remove most of the pulp from the tomato, leaving the tomato skin or shell intact. Chop the tomato pulp finely and reserve.
Place the tomato “shells” on a baking sheet or a shallow roasting pan. Using a spoon or pastry brush, spread 1/8 tsp of the tapenade into the bottom of each tomato and set aside. Divide half the goat cheese and crumble on top of the tapenade.
Add half the oil to a medium skillet and cook over moderate heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring for 5 minutes. Add the reserved tomato pulp, half the parsley and thyme and cook another 3 minutes. Remove from the heat, add the remaining herbs, and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Divide the stuffing among the eight tomato shells and top each with some breadcrumbs and the remaining goat cheese. (The tomatoes can be made several hours ahead of time up to this point.)
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Drizzle the top of each tomato with a little bit of the remaining tablespoon of oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until hot. Serve at room temperature with a garnish of fresh herbs.