Sunday, September 29, 2013

Tomatoes Provencale

I happened by an event in NYC today called 'Taste of France' - a complete coincidence, as I already had the ingredients on hand to prep these Provencal-style tomatoes for dinner. But it served as a nice reminder that it need not be difficult to be vegan in France (you can even stay at all-vegan inns, these days), and that some of the best flavors we associate with French cuisine - the fresh tomatoes, thyme, olive oil, and garlic in this recipe, to wit - are vegan to begin with.

  • 8 tomatoes*
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1 (1/2-ounce) slice sourdough bread
  • 6 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup vegan Parmesan sprinkles (such as Galaxy Foods)
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • Cooking spray
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • Thyme leaves (optional for garnish)
1. Cut the tops off the tomatoes, and discard.  Seed the tomatoes, leaving the shells intact.

Note: This step isn't hard, just a little delicate. I recommend cutting in a circle around the inside of the tomato with a serrated knife, then using a spoon to scoop everything out.

2. Sprinkle the cut sides of the tomatoes with 1/4 teaspoon salt and place, cut sides down, on several layers of paper towels; drain for 15 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, place the bread in a food processor and pulse about 10 to 20 times; coarse crumbs should measure about 1/2 cup.  Combine the breadcrumbs in a bowl with the parsley, Parmesan sprinkles, and garlic.

4. Heat the olive oil in a large oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat.  Place the tomatoes cut sides down, in the pan and saute for 5 minutes.

5. Remove the pan from heat and turn the tomatoes over.  Spoon about 2 tablespoons breadcrumb mixture into each tomato, and spray the breadcrumb mixture with cooking spray.  Sprinkle evenly with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and the black pepper.

6. Wrap the handle of the pan in aluminum foil and bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes - the breadcrumb mixture should be browned.  Sprinkle with thyme leaves for a pretty garnish.

I rounded out my homey French-themed meal with chickpea soup, and little noshes of artichokes, roasted bell pepper, and extra sourdough bread.

Serve with a good French red wine of course. I'm still searching for a vegan Chateauneuf du Pape, but you can find similar varietals (Cotes du Rhone and Crozes Hermitages) that are certified vegan at the Organic Wine Company.

*Make sure you buy tomatoes large enough to stuff - about 8 ounces each.

Nutrition Info:
8 servings (1 stuffed tomato), Calories 73

Tasting Notes:
The Parmesan is fantastic, the best use for vegan Parmesan sprinkles I've found yet, and the first thing that hits you when you take a bite. The tomatoes are so soft and sweet from roasting that they are melt-in-your mouth. To really make this a "5," I would bulk up the filling with a little more sourdough, and add thyme right into the mix instead of saving it for a garnish.  Also fantastic if you spread the whole mixture on top of additional slices of good sourdough, for something a bit like pan catalan.


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