I was the happy recipient of two grocery bags full of homegrown tomatoes last weekend (thanks Erika!). Talk about the perfect gift. Admittedly giddy, I went through and delicately handled each shapely orb, dividing them into little groups according to ripeness and day-dreaming about all the ways I could use them up. There was one beautiful heirloom with dark burgundy and black stripes that begged to be eaten, so I sliced that one thick and ate it on the spot.
The four biggest, buxom beauties were set aside with this dish in mind. I’ve been ogling the recipe at Rachel Eats for over a month, hoping to get my hands on a few particularly good tomatoes.
Pomodori col Riso translated is literally Tomatoes with Rice. No bells and whistles here. Much like the name, the ingredient list is a minimalist’s dream: tomatoes, rice, olive oil, salt and pepper, and a few leaves of fresh basil. I t should come as no surprise that the preparation is equally straightforward. Basically, empty the tomatoes of their pulp and juices, mix said pulp and juices with everything else, and then refill the tomatoes with the mix. Indeed, a perfect example of Italian culinary brilliance and thrift. Nothing goes to waste.
I am over-simplifying the process a bit, because it is necessary to heed two other very important steps. We’ll call them “The Wait” and then “THE LONG WAIT”. You see, once you’ve got your bowl of tomato pulp, rice, oil, and seasonings – a primordial soup if I’ve ever seen one – you must allow it to sit. The rice will swell and soften, absorbing the flavors of each component. Rachel recommends at least 45 minutes. It is after this little wait that you stuff the tomatoes and then roast them in the oven.
Now comes the torturous final step, or “THE LONG WAIT”, whereby you allow those hot, intoxicating and shriveled mounds to rest…for hours…at least 2-3, or even over night.
In an effort to escape the aroma and avoid temptation until dinner, Cecil and I went for a long walk.
The Pomodori are traditionally served at room temperature, which we noted allows all that flavor to really sing. The rice was exceptionally creamy, so much so that Adam asked in a puzzled tone what cheese I had used. The answer was, of course, none in the least.
POMODORI COL RISO
Adapted from Rachel Eats
Now, I must confess, I went a little rogue in my choice of fresh herbs. I had a nice bunch of fresh thyme but no basil on hand and it seemed frivolous to run out for just basil. I reasoned that an Italian would more likely frown down upon wastefulness than swapping herbs. Besides, it is mid-September and where I live the leaves are already turning, Fall is in the air, and thyme just seemed more appropriate.
We served our stuffed tomatoes along side perfectly fried, runny-yolk eggs, fondly named Nick’s Eggs in our house, after our brother-in-law. I will have to post that recipe sometime.
Do pop over to Rachel’s post for her spirited and altogether charming description of the preparation process; it is a delightful read.
8 fist-size ripe and flavorful tomatoes (I had 4 extra-large tomatoes)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
10 or so tablespoons of arborio rice (or any risotto rice, I should think)
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus a glug
2 sprigs of fresh thyme (or fresh basil), chopped
- Using a paring knife, slice off tops of tomatoes and set aside.
- Scrape out tomato pulp, seeds and juices into a medium-sized bowl, leaving enough flesh intact to provide structure. Sprinkle interior of each scraped tomato with a little salt and then place top down over a few folded paper towels to drain.
- Break down the tomato pulp via a food mill, an immersion blender, or a pulse or two in the food processor. You don’t need a smooth texture; you just need to smoosh any large chunks.
- To the bowl of tomato pulp add the minced garlic, rice, olive oil, about 4 pinches of salt, a few generous grinds of fresh black pepper and thyme. Stir the mix, cover with a tea towel and allow to sit at room temperature for at least 45 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Oil a baking dish that will accommodate all of the tomatoes without being either too roomy or too snug.
- Before stuffing the tomatoes, stir the mix one more time and taste, avoiding any of the still-crunchy rice. Adjust seasoning if necessary.
- Fill tomato shells 3/4 full with tomato pulp and rice mixture and replace tomato tops. Place tomatoes in the oiled baking dish. Dollop any leftover stuffing around the tomatoes in the bottom of the dish.
- Roast for 45 minutes, until the rice is tender.
- Allow to cool 2-3 hours, at least. Serve at room temp.