Robin Anish: Stuffed tomatoes perfect for end of summer season

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Yes, it is beginning to feel like fall is knocking on the door and it feels kind of nice, I must admit. The sun is comfortably warm, humidity is down and the air is fresh and clear. Nights are a bit chilly, perfect for cracking the window to let in just enough of the cooler air to encourage curling up under a blanket for a refreshing night's sleep.

Summer is on it's way out, but it will not yet take with it the locally grown produce we've been enjoying this summer. Local produce is still available for a little longer, but the season will be winding down soon; so, keep enjoying as much garden-fresh produce as you can ... while you can!

I'll miss locally grown tomatoes most of all, so I am going to make the most of them until they are no longer available.

I couldn't let the season go by without making one of my favorite tomato dishes. I'm partial to French cooking. Not so much Haute cuisine, but real homegrown, unpretentious, Jacques Pepin kind of every day French cooking.

Tomates Farcies is a classic example of this kind of cooking. Translated, Tomates Farcies means stuffed tomatoes. In this recipe, tomatoes are stuffed with a meat mixture similar to meatloaf and baked.

The recipe is very easy and comes together quickly for a weeknight meal in it's simplest presentation, but I wouldn't hesitate to serve this dish for a special occasion served atop a bed of herb-buttered rice along with mixed greens dressed in a vinaigrette, a crusty bread and a favorite bottle of wine followed by some fruit and cheese. Chocolates from any of the excellent chocolatiers throughout the Berkshires and Southern Vermont would make for a perfect finish to the meal.

TOMATES FARCIES

INGREDIENTS:

4 large ripe beefsteak tomatoes

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1 pound ground beef, 80/20

1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs

1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped

1 large clove garlic, minced

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1/4 cup parsley, finely chopped

1 teaspoon each dried thyme and basil

1/3 cup grated Gruyere or Swiss cheese

salt and pepper

2 tablespoons butter

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1/4 cup olive oil

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Cut the tops off of each tomato and reserve to placed back on the tomato before baking like a little hat or le chapeau.

Using a spoon, scoop out the insides, being careful not to pierce through the tomato flesh.

Sprinkle tomatoes with salt and turn them upside down on a dish so that the excess water drains out.

Gently mix together all the other ingredients except butter and olive oil, along with a pinch of salt and pepper. Do not overwork meat.

Stuff each tomato with the filling, sprinkle with cheese and cover with the little hat. Dot with butter then drizzle a little extra olive oil on top. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Bake uncovered for 40 minutes until tomatoes are tender and any juices have caramelized. Let cool a bit before serving.


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