It’s that weird time of the year when the drugstores are (blasphemously) selling cheap candy and pumpkin spiced-everything while heirloom tomatoes are still available at the supermarket. One minute I’m frolicking outside in a dress and the next minute jeans and closed-toe shoes are necessary.
Anyway, for dinner last night I decided to dabble with the four remaining beefsteak [well, three--I used one heirloom] tomatoes at Whole Foods and made them into tomates farcies (stuffed and topped with breadcrumbs.) I paired them with a spinach cake, because what’s better than savory ingredients re-imagined as a baked good? (Why does “baked good” sound so odd?) With the tops of the tomatoes I made a cute lil’ colorful salad dressed with balsamic-parmesan vinaigrette.
Baked Tomatoes with Sausage Stuffing [from "Tomatoes" a Short Stack Edition by Soa Davies]
4 large beefsteak tomatoes
1 cup diced country or sourdough bread
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 pound pork sausage, casing removed
2 tablespoons chopped onion
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
4 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
Fine sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup bread crumbs [I needed maybe 1/2 of that]
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan Cheese
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Slice 1/2 inch off one end of each of the tomatoes, scoop out the pulp and seeds and reserve for another use. [I saved the tops for the salad!] Place the tomatoes, cut side up, in a baking dish. Place the diced bread in a bowl and cover with the milk.
Heat a skillet over medium heat and add the sausage. Cook the sausage until well browned, breaking it up with a spatula as it cooks. Add the onion and garlic and continue cooking until the vegetables have softened, about 5 minutes. Let the meat mixture cool slightly, then transfer it to the bowl with the bread and the milk. Add the egg, parsley, 1/4 teaspoon of salt and two pinches of cracked black pepper. Stir the ingredients to combine.
Drizzle the olive oil over each of the tomatoes and lightly season with salt and pepper. Fill each tomato with some of the sausage mixture and cover the baking dish with foil. Transfer the dish to the oven and bake for 25 minutes.
While the tomatoes are baking, stir the breadcrumbs and Parmesan together in a small bowl. After the tomatoes have baked for 25 minutes, top each one with some of the bread-crumb mixture and continue to bake for another 10 to 15 minutes or until the topping is golden brown and toasted. [I broiled for about 5-8 minutes]. Transfer to plates and serve.
David Tanis’ Spinach Cake [from Yummy Supper, original recipe from David Tanis'"Platter of Figs"]
adapted from David Tanis’ Platter of Figs
- 2 pound spinach leaves
- 2 medium leeks, 2 heads green garlic, and/or 2 spring onions [I just used leeks]
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- freshly ground nutmeg [I used pre-ground]
- 6 large eggs
- 2 cups whole milk
Thoroughly clean spinach leaves. Coarsely chop and set aside. Dice leeks, green garlic and/or spring onion.
Melt butter in a large saute pan over medium heat.
Add leeks, onion, and/ or garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Saute for about five minutes until tender. Grate nutmeg over the top.
Turn up the heat. Add spinach in layers (salt each layer as you go) until you can fit it all in the pan. Cover and steam, stirring once or twice, until spinach has just wilted. This should only take a couple of minutes.
Spread cooked spinach onto a platter to cool.
Preheat oven to 400.
When spinach has cooled, get out your blender and puree spinach, eggs, and milk in batches. (Tanis suggests reserving the extra liquid from the cooked spinach and adding it to the puree. I would recommend pouring out the excess spinach water. When I left it in, I had liquid at the bottom of my cake when it was done cooking.) Add extra salt, pepper and a pinch of cayenne. Puree should be heavily seasoned.
Pour soupy batter into a buttered baking dish. Sprinkle a few tablespoons of grated Parmesan over the top.
Bake uncovered in the oven for 35-45 minutes until firm. When the cake is done, you should be able to insert a knife and it will come out clean.
[Tomato Jack O'Lantern photo courtesy of Western Gardeners]