Rice usually bores me. I know it’s supposed to accentuate whatever saucy dish it’s being served with (stir fry, dal, whatever), but to me rice is a thief, sopping up and diluting the delicious spices in the main event. But cook the rice in wine, add plenty of sauteed veggies and herbs, then stuff it in a tomato and suddenly rice BECOMES the main event in a dish that is all at once healthy, special and comforting.
Stuffed tomatoes (tomates farcies in French) are a traditional French side dish typically served in the summer when tomatoes are in season. Most recipes use ground beef as the stuffing, but at Chateau Ventenac, we used camargue red rice cooked in wine and stock mixed with a heap of sauteed onion, leek, red pepper, garlic and plenty of fresh herbs. The tomatoes are then stuffed, topped with cheese, and baked for until the tomatoes are sizzling in their own sweet juices and just starting to blacken around the edges.
This was one of my favourite meals of the course, and the recipe I most looked forward to bringing home with me to Chicago. And as I discovered last week, this recipe is VERY adaptable to whatever types of rice and veggies you have on hand.
Lacking both leek and red pepper, I used onion, carrots, peas, corn, chopped kale and dried italian herbs from Mr. Greenjeans. I also used a mix of brown jasmine and wild rice. Fortunately, we did have white wine around – you could do without, but the white wine gives the rice a nice sweet richness that really takes the dish to a whole new level. Besides, it wouldn’t be very French without it!
I left the cheese off mine for a vegan tomates farcies experience, but everyone else got a bit of parmesan on theirs. Both versions turned out a treat. The carrots and kale added the perfect texture to the soft rice. Mom made some green beans with lemon and sesame seeds and I poached some eggs to go on all the extra rice filling that didn’t fit in the tomatoes. And couple of raw avocado slices on the side didn’t hurt a bit. The only problem with these tomatoes is that they’re a butter to get out of the pan, so keep a good spatula handy and try to be patient, but if not, don’t worry – the tomato will come to pieces on your plate in no time.
Here is the recipe as given from Rachel Demuth. I know I know, I have French Fever, and the only prescription is tamates farcies. Next time, I promise something completely different from somewhere completely OTHER than the south of France. Something crunchy. Something spicy. Something all about the vegetables and something quintessentially CHICAGO.
Tomates Farcies (Stuffed Tomatoes)
These are vegan without the cheese.
- 200g Camargue red rice (or whatever red rice you have on hand)
- 250ml white wine
- 750ml hot vegetable stock
- A few sprigs of bay, rosemary, thyme and oregano (or a pinch each of dried)
- 6 ripe but firm large tomatoes
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
- 350g finely chopped vegetables (red pepper, mushrooms, leek, carrot, kale, whatever you have around)
- 4 tbsps olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tbsp tomato puree
- 3 tbsps chopped fresh basil
- handful of chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
- 100g Parmesan, or similar cheese, grated (optional)
- salt & pepper
- Preheat the oven to 200C/390F.
- Cook the rice in a medium saucepan with the vegetable stock, the glass of wine and herbs. Stir occasionally and simmer until just cooked through, which takes about 15 minutes for red rice, make sure the rice isn’t over cooked as it is cooked again inside the tomatoes. Drain. Set the rice aside.
- Cut a thick slice off the top of each tomato; leaving on the stalk if you can and reserve the tomato tops. Cut and scoop the seeds, pulp, and juice from each tomato into a small saucepan. Simmer the tomato pulp for 15 minutes and then strain through a sieve, reserving the pulp and discarding the seeds.
- Oil the bottom of a baking dish, big enough to fit the tomatoes snugly, with 2 tbsps of the olive oil. Place the hollowed tomatoes in the prepared dish.
- To make the filling. In a frying pan fry the onion gently in the remainder of the olive oil, until soft and starting to caramelise. Add the garlic and fry for a minute before adding the vegetables with a little salt and pepper. Gently fry for five minutes and then add the strained tomato pup. Cook for a couple of minutes and then add the parsley, some of the cheese and rice (add as much so that the rice to veggie ratio is just as you like – you might have some rice leftover). Combine well. Add the tomato juice to achieve a moist filling. Taste and season well.
- Spoon the rice mixture into the hollowed tomatoes, mounding slightly. Sprinkle leftover stuffing on the bottom of the pan. Drizzle entire dish with olive oil and the remaining cheese. Place the reserved tomato slices on top the tomatoes. Bake until the rice is heated through, about 20 minutes.