My vegetable patch is full of tomatoes lately, and even though it’s the end of summer, there’s no stopping the new foliage and green fruit appearing. The slightly ripened yellow, then orange, and the odd red ones sing so beautifully amongst their green neighbours, my spirits are instantly lifted, leaving me with a huge smile. I then notice a few ripened tomatoes eaten by a few black slugs, and I start to wonder when exactly should I be picking them? Under-ripe tomatoes are sour, then again some may not be as bright as I hoped but perfectly ripe, even if they might have a hint of green on them. I guess I didn’t realise tomatoes can grow so rapidly and just using them for salads was not enough. I’ve always loved the taste of cooked tomatoes, and since cooking tomatoes boosts their lycopene content, I’m on the hunt for more recipes to put them into good use. Lycopene is an antioxidant that gives certain fruit and vegetables their distinctive red colour. This phytochemical is known to reduce the risk of prostate cancer, and promotes good colon health. Although cooking tomatoes reduces their vitamin C content, eating a variety of raw and cooked vegetables (i.e. tomatoes) should give us a good balance of both.
I have stuffed many vegetables and greens in my life, the stuffed vine leaves, being the most common Middle Eastern concoction enjoyed by many worldwide. If you get used to vegetables stuffed with fragrant rice, spices and herbs, then cooked with plenty of lemon juice and olive oil, anything else may seem bland in comparison. However, I wanted change. I needed change. I was craving something simple, yet healthy and satisfying. So I came across this recipe in Heidi Swanson’s book, Super Natural Everyday. With the addition of courgettes (zucchini) from the garden, I was pleased with the dish. Yes I was the only one who ate it, but that meant more in the freezer for a quick lunch some other day.
I have really enjoyed growing my own tomatoes this summer and I have a better idea of how to get them to ripe quicker next year. Meanwhile, we’ll make use of as many of the harvest season left, and maybe try making a preserved chutney for the first time in my life 🙂
Stuffed Tomatoes (and courgettes) – Adapted from Super Natural Every Day
Note: Heidi only uses tomatoes in this recipe, and the addition of courgettes is entirely my own. You could easily experiment with other vegetables.
serves 6 (or 3 hungry people)
- 4 medium-large, ripe tomatoes (about 140g each)
- 1-2 courgettes, depending on size
- 115 g, 1/2 cup plain yoghurt
- 1 tablespoon harissa, or more if you like it spicier
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus a drizzle, to serve
- 12 fresh basil or thyme leaves, chopped
- 2 shallots, or 1 small onion, finely chopped
- fine sea salt
- 85g, 1/2 cup wholemeal or kamut couscous
Preheat the oven to 180°C (Gas Mark 4) with a rack in the middle of the oven. Generously butter or oil a medium dish or gratin pan. You want the tomatoes, and courgettes, to nestle together in the dish without much room between them.
Use a serrated knife to cup the top 10 per cent from each tomato. For the courgettes, cut into a few segments, the same length of the tomatoes, trimming the ends. Working over a bowl, use a spoon or a tool to scoop the flesh from each tomato, letting the juice and tomato chunks fall into the bowl. For the courgettes, scoop out enough flesh to leave a thin layer of pith to hold the stuffing. Do your best to avoid piercing the walls of the tomatoes and courgettes. Use your hands to break up any large chunks of carved-out tomato flesh. You can use the courgette flesh to make courgette bread. Arrange the tomato and courgette ‘shells’ in the prepared baking dish, and sprinkle some sea salt.
To make the filling, combine 140 g (3/4 cup) of tomato chunks and juice, the yoghurt, harissa, olive oil, most of the basil or thyme, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a bowl. Taste and adjust the seasoning – maybe a bit more harissa or salt. Add the couscous and stir until combined. Use a spoon to stuff each tomato and courgette nearly full.
Bake for 50-60 minutes, until the couscous is cooked and the tomatoes start to wrinkle a bit and brown near the pan. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with the remaining basil or thyme just before serving.