Tomatoes Stuffed with Sausage and Rice
Here tomatoes are stuffed and then roasted in a hot oven to maximize caramelization. This technique works for all sorts of vegetables; see the variations and the list of other vegetables to use that follows.
You can ready the tomatoes for stuffing in two ways: by slicing off a lid and creating a container out of the whole tomato or by halving the tomato, scraping out the insides, and stuffing each half (this is best suited for large tomatoes or for making stuffed tomato appetizers).
Other vegetables you can use: Bell peppers, mushrooms, small eggplant, and summer squash can be stuffed raw. Chayote, onions, winter squash, cabbage, or any sturdy cooking green must be parcooked before being stuffed. (In all cases except for the peppers you will need to create a little hollow space by scraping away some of the interior flesh before filling.)
4 to 6 firm ripe tomatoes, about 6 ounces each
8 ounces fresh sausage, removed from the casings if necessary
1 cup cooked white, basmati, brown, or wild rice or other cooked grain
1 tablespoon minced garlic (optional)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Chopped fresh parsley or basil leaves for garnish
1. Heat the oven to 450°F. Cut a 1/4-inch slice from the smooth end of each tomato (the stem end is typically flatter and makes for a more stable base). Reserve these slices. Use a spoon to scoop out all of the insides of the tomatoes, leaving a wall about 1/4 inch thick. Discard the woody core and seeds and chop the pulp; mix it with the sausage, the rice, the garlic if you're using it, and some salt and pepper.
2. Sprinkle the inside of the tomatoes with salt and pepper, stuff them with the sausage mixture, and replace the top slices. Spread half the olive oil in a shallow roasting pan that will allow for a little room between the tomatoes and put them in the pan. Sprinkle all with salt and pepper and put the roasting pan in the oven.
3. Roast the tomatoes for 30 to 40 minutes, until they are shriveled and the sausage is cooked through. Take a peek into the middle of one of the tomatoes; if the sausage is still pink, continue cooking. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature, drizzled with the remaining olive oil and garnished with the herb.
Tomatoes Stuffed with Rice and Cheese. Substitute 1 cup grated Gruyère, Asiago, manchego, Monterey Jack, or mozzarella cheese for the sausage.
Quick Stuffed Tomatoes. Halve the tomatoes, core, and scoop out the seeds. Omit the sausage and rice. Mix together 1/2 cup bread crumbs, preferably fresh, 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan, the garlic, salt and pepper, and just enough olive oil to make it hold together a bit. Fill the tomato halves with the bread crumb mixture. Proceed with the recipe and reduce the cooking time to 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the size of the tomato.