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Have you ever seen anything more beautiful in your entire life?

I have. It was this stuffed tomato. About 5 seconds after I took this photo I inhaled it. It was good.

It was real good.

It was good because I followed this recipe to the T from the America’s Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook.

If you follow their recipes, things turn out good.

So come, make this (it’s pretty simple), marvel at its beauty, then put it in your belly.

Tomatoes Stuffed with Couscous, Goat Cheese, and Zucchini aka Pure Goodness (From The America’s Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook)

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 6-8 large tomatoes (I used 6, but generously stuffed them. The recipe calls for 8 )
  • 4 1/2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 fennel bulb (12 ounces) tops discarded, halved, cored, and minced
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 1 large zucchini, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2/3 cup whole-wheat couscous
  • 3/4 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

Directions:

1. Slice the top of each tomato off (about 1/8 inch) and carefully remove the core and seeds. You can do this with a pairing knife or your hands. Sprinkle the inside of each tomato with 1/8 tsp of salt. Place upside-down on several layers of paper towels and let drain for 30 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Heat 1 tbsp of the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the fennel and shallots and cook until softened and lightly browned, about 10-12 minutes.

3. Stir in the zucchini and cook until tender, about 5-6 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the couscous and cook until lightly toasted, 1-2 minutes.

4. Stir in the broth and bring to a brief simmer. Remove the pan from the heat, cover, and let sit for 5 minutes. Using a fork, gently fluff the couscous and stir in the Parmesan cheese, goat cheese, and basil. Season with salt and pepper.

5. Pat the inside of each tomato dry with paper towels. arrange the tomatoes, cut-side up, in a 13×9 inch baking dish lined with aluminum foil. Brush the cut edges of the tomatoes with the remaining 1 1/2 tsp olive oil. Mound the couscous filling into the tomatoes (about 1/2 cup per tomato).

6. Bake for 15 minutes until the tomatoes are tender and the tops are slightly browned.

My Two Cents: I’ve made stuffed vegetables before, including zucchinis, onions, and peppers. They were good. But I’m afraid this one outshines them all. Can you guess why?

Got it?

Yep!

Goat cheese ;) Essentially, if I put goat cheese in anything, I think it tastes good ;) But in all seriousness, this was good for other reasons! First, the tomatoes held their shape, which is always a rare thing for a tomato. They hold so much water, and they get soggy, etc. But since they were emptied of their bellies (and stuffed with something infinitely better) and salted, they stood strong in the oven.

Other flavors that really enhanced the stuffing was the basil, fennel, and garlic. There wasn’t too much basil so that it was overpowering–I liked the subtle hint of it. And the fennel? Amazing. Interestingly enough, this was the very first time I ever prepared fennel. And I have to admit I was skeptical. “What the hell is that licorice-smelling piece of white junk?” I thought. But my doubts subsided immediately once I sunk my teeth into this.

I cheated and used 6 tomatoes in the recipe. I only had 6. So I just overstuffed them…and maybe just ate spoonfuls of the bits of leftover stuffing I had after I was done stuffing the tomatoes… ;) So use 8. That’s ideal…for the correct serving size ;)

Here’s one thing that could throw people off, though, especially if they don’t own a kitchen scale (like this chick over here). How can you tell if you have 8 ounces of zucchini? Or 12 ounces of fennel? Without a scale, you really can’t. You can measure at the grocery store. But I never have the patience to do that…or write down the exact ounces of produce on my list. In this particular case, I used equal amounts of fennel and shallots in the dish. I think I picked up a rather large fennel bulb, so I ended up tossing about 1/4 of it. As for the zucchini, I used a big one for the dish. And it was absolutely perfect.

Also, I  really recommend cutting fennel with a sharp knife. It will make your life easier.

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