Saturday, July 31, 2010

Mozzarella & Pesto Stuffed Tomatoes

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The brief history behind these delights is quite simple. I had a party coming up and decided I wanted to serve stuffed tomatoes. I had never made them before (actually, to be quite honest, I didn't know anyone who had ever made them before) but I loved the idea, and thought they would fit my theme perfectly. But I didn't have a recipe, so I went on a hunt. I searched the internet, and sure enough, in seconds I had hundreds of stuffed tomato recipes to choose from. I narrowed it down to certain ingredients, and started reading them all. I soon found I was disappointed. I couldn't find the perfect combination that epitomized my taste, or my party. I wanted something simple (that seemed obvious to me since stuffed tomatoes aren't usually your main course, so why would you want to spend all day preparing your appetizer? - DUH!) and something that sounded delicious. Apparently this was too much to ask. So I abandoned the internet and set out to make the perfect stuffed tomato. Based on the reviews I have received on these little beauties I think I did it! The only challenge I find is not eating them all before the company comes.

These are so simple there are only three real components:

The Tomato:

Okay, so I know it's tradition to use cherry tomatoes for appetizers, but I have issues with that concept. First of all, that's a lot of work for the tiny bite of food that you get, and second, there are better tomatoes out there. Oh don't get me wrong, I love cute diminutive cherry tomatoes on top of my salad as much as the next girl but when used as a standalone food there are tastier options. WB 053

Personally, I love the vine ripened Campari tomato. They average about the size of a golf ball, so they are good for two or three good bites. The larger size also makes them easier to empty and re-stuff. Campari's are juicy, and have a higher sugar level than other tomatoes. This makes them sweeter and less acidic. Their deep red color is gorgeous, and they aren't overly farinaceous, or mealy in texture, which is a plus for me. I think they are absolutely perfect! And you can get lucky sometimes and find them at Sams and Costco. Yay!

The Mozzarella:

Mozzarella is mozzarella, right? Well yes, and no. I don't think it matters much which brand you choose, just pick your favorite. I use low-moisture part-skim, because that's what I like. As much as I love fresh mozzarella, I opted out for this recipe due to flavor and texture. What I did find that makes a big difference, however, is dicing the cheese. Chopping the mozzarella into small cubes instead of grating it allows for a richer flavor and creamier texture.

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The Pesto:

This is where the "simple" comes in. You can slave all day making your own pesto, or you can find a great sauce already made. That's what I do, shh! I've tried a dozen different pesto sauces, some of them imported directly from Italy, but believe it or not I found one that rivals the best of them right in my own Sams Club! The Members Mark brand is beautiful. It is made modestly with good ingredients: olive oil, basil, romano and parmesan cheeses, garlic and pine nuts. Delicious!

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So what made me think of this triple combination? I don't know, except I recognized that with these three you couldn't go wrong!

The Recipe:

  • 1 ½ cups diced mozzarella
  • ¾ cup pesto
  • 2 lbs. (aprox. 20) Campari tomatoes
  • Salt

Core the tomatoes with a small melon baller or fruit corer. Rinse out the seeds and sprinkle salt into the tomatoes. Turn upside down onto a paper towel, and refrigerate until filling is ready. This gives them time to drain and the salt helps eliminate excess moisture. Mix the pesto with the mozzarella, and use a baby spoon to fill the tomatoes. Serve immediately or refrigerate beforehand. Mangia Mangia! Enjoy.

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