like imploded pizzas

I was gathering recipes for stuffed tomatoes, looking for a filling, healthy springtime dish. Ultimately, I found myself disappointed by either a bland flavor profile, a lack of substance, or how (not) easy they were to make for a weeknight cook. So I set out to make my own variation, a sort of amalgam of my various failures.  

What I ended up with may not be terribly authentic, but is delicious and efficient. Sure, you could spend the time to make a garlic-basil risotto to fill your 'mats with—if you've got that kind of time on a Tuesday night. In the end, these rich, filling, robust little flavor bombs seemed to me like imploded personal pizzas.

6 whole medium tomatoes
1/2 cup of rice
½ cup of bread crumbs
1 cup of packed basil
1 tbs blanched slivered almonds
3 whole cloves of garlic + 1 more, minced
¼ cup parmesan cut into ¼-inch cubes
juice of ½ a lime
2 tbs olive oil

I'd start out by making the pesto. You'll have time while the rice is cooking, but the tomatoes need to be dealt with as well, so… you've got to start somewhere. This part is easy. Wash the basil, throw it in your food processor with 3 whole cloves of garlic, almonds, lime juice, salt and olive oil. Blend until it's pesto. After that's a wrap, preheat the oven to 425˚.

The rice is up next: I often start rice by melting a small pat of butter in a saucepan. Once, it's good to go, I'll add a clove of minced garlic and a pinch of salt, simmering until it's fragrant. Then I'll add the rice, stirring it constantly, until there's a light toast on it. Lastly, I'll add twice as much water as I did rice, and a bring it to a boil, reduce the heat, cover the pot—letting it simmer for 15 minutes or so until done.

While the rice is doing it's thing, core the tomatoes, cutting down through the the top in circle, with a paring knife and scooping out the insides with a spoon. (Note: I don't need to tell you to save those tomato innards for stock, do I).

Let the rice cool a wee bit, then combine it with the pesto, parmesan and about ¾ of the bread crumbs, in a bowl. Once you've folded it all together, fill the cored tomatoes with your mixture. Top each tomato with the rest of the breadcrumbs, patting them down just a bit. Line a small casserole pan with parchment paper, arranging the filled tomatoes in it. Place it all in the oven for twenty minutes or so—until heated through and the skin of the tomatoes are crinkling a bit and breadcrumbs are toasty on top. Let them cool (just a tad) and serve warm—I'd provide some steak knives to quarter them easily.

leftover star

It isn't often I try to cook vegan, but a recent guest had my brain in pretzels trying to figure out how to show off my amateur chef skills while conforming to new standards. It came off well enough I actually worked hard to use up the leftovers even after the guest shuffled on home. One night of this leftovers boogaloo, I used a savory soft tofu concoction (originally made for fried squash blossoms) as a filling for light cornmeal crepes. While it was no longer vegan, it was a hit. Now this recipe is being promoted up to heavy rotation. Added bonus? It's dead simple.

1 package soft tofu, drained
½ cup fresh ricotta
1 clove garlic, minced
1 jalapeño, seeded and minced
juice of ½ a lime
1 tsp of salt

1 cup flour
½ cup cornmeal
3 eggs
1½ cups milk (maybe more, depending)
1 tbs. melted butter
½ tsp. cumin
½ tsp. crushed red pepper
½ salt

1 avocado
1 romano tomato, diced
lime juice

grapeseed oil

Prep it.
Start with the tofu mixture. Drain and press the tofu block to get some of the excess moisture out. Be careful here, soft tofu is not as resilient as the firmer varieties and will split under too much weight—which isn't really a problem for this recipe, but it might make a mess of things on your counter. In a medium bowl, mash the drained tofu with a fork. Fold in the ricotta, garlic, jalapeño, salt and lime. Set aside to let the flavors steep.

Mash up the avocado in a small bowl. Mix it with a dash of salt, a little juice from the other half of the lime and toss it with the diced tomato. Set aside.

Whip it.
Put the flour, cornmeal, eggs, milk, melted butter and spices in a blender and frappé that shit, but good. It should be a thick liquid, not a paste—think egg nog more than pancake batter. Add more milk if needed. Heat a 12-inch pan over medium-high heat and brush it with oil (I keep grapeseed around for higher heat cooking). Pour in enough batter to cover the bottom, tilting the pan quickly to spread it thinly and evenly. Let it cook, undisturbed until the top is starting to look somewhat dry. Carefully flip it with a spatula and let the other side cook for a minute. Move the finished crepe to a plate and repeat, stacking the crepes. Brush the pan with more oil as needed.

Roll it.
Once you've finished making the crepes, put a line of tofu / ricotta filling in each crepe, slightly off center. Roll the crepe up from the short side into a wee burrito and place in the pan to heat slightly. You can probably heat 4 or 5 at a time this way. Dress each with some mashed avocado. I served this with a side of refried beans.

Since this recipe started as a clever use of leftovers, I thought it only appropriate to soundtrack it with some breakbeat techno, since these tracks pillage the past to serve the future.