Wednesday, May 11, 2005


OK, this is basically just a shell of tomato wrapped around a big hunk of melted basil-flavored cheese. But it's also delicious, another fine offering from Jack Bishop's Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook. As Jack says, "These tomatoes may be served as an all-in-one summer luncheon or a light dinner. Add a complete the meal." We did so, and some bread as well. Our tomatoes were somewhat on the small side, though (I couldn't even fit all the filling into them), so we each ended up eating two, which was a little overwhelmingly cheesy. (And we're avid cheese lovers, mind you.) So I'm thinking these might work better (one apiece) as a side dish with some chicken or something. However you serve them, they're simple and darned good--like warm bruschetta! Or...inside-out pizza? Something tasty, anyway.

Postscript, December 2009: Apparently, too cheesy to make it into the regular rotation. I never made these again.

4 large, ripe but firm tomatoes (about 2 pounds)
1/2 cup pesto, preferably homemade
5 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded (about 1 and 1/4 cups)
1/3 cup plain fresh bread crumbs
salt and pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cut off and discard a 1/2-inch-thick slice from the top of each tomato, then use a small spoon to scoop out and discard the core and seeds, making sure to get rid of as much liquid as possible.

2. Mix together the pesto, cheese, bread crumbs, and salt and pepper in a small bowl. Use the small spoon to scoop some of the mixture into each tomato. Jack says, "[make] sure that the filling reaches into all the hollowed-out areas. Mound the filling a little above the top of each tomato and pat the filling gently to compact it." (Which I did, and which I think caused me overfill the tomatoes with cheese. I think I could have done with a little less filling, really, but would have to try again to be sure. Anyway, do whatever looks good to you.)

3. Place the tomatoes in a lightly greased baking dish just large enough to hold them (8x8), and bake until tomatoes are soft but not falling apart and cheese is bubbly and turning brown in spots, 25-30 minutes. Remove the tomatoes from the oven, let them cool for at least 15 minutes, then serve them. Jack says the tomatoes can be kept at room temperature for several hours, if you'd rather not serve them hot (I suppose that might be good in the summer).

Serves: 4 (or maybe 2 as a main dish, if your tomatoes are smallish)
Time: 1 hour


I hadn't made this recipe in eons, because I have several similar cucumber-yogurt-pita recipes that are a little jazzier: this one has seasoned beef, and another--hmm, perhaps I haven't made that one since starting this site--has an accompanying tomato-onion salad. But the thing was, we hadn't been to the farmers' market, so no nice fresh tomatoes for us. And I desperately wanted to make hummus, which, now that I'm no longer living the swingin' bachelor life, apparently does not constitute a meal in itself. Usually I pair hummus with fattoush, but...we had no tomatoes. So, I thought, cucumber salad! I can test the recipe and see whether I still need to keep it around! And it was pretty good, creamy and green with cucumber and herbs--would be especially nice and refreshing on a hot summer day. Granted, we didn't end up eating all the leftovers (I should have made a half recipe, for one thing), but I'm keeping the recipe around. I'm just a sucker for anything I can put in a pita, especially when it's this easy.

Postscript, December 2009: The beef version won out. Turns out I never really want just cucumber-yogurt sauce on its own, so this recipe is officially redundant.

1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
3 scallions, including greens, chopped
1/4 cup minced fresh chives
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 cup plain nonfat yogurt
2 large cucumbers, peeled, seeded, and minced
salt and pepper to taste

1. Combine all the ingredients in a large glass bowl.

2. Chill the salad for 3 hours (you can skip this if you want to eat it right away, though the flavors will blend more with time; be forewarned, it will separate if you let it sit for a while, but giving it a good stir fixes it up again).

3. Serve with pita bread. You could dip the bread in and use it to scoop up the salad, but I prefer to spoon the raita into the pockets of the bread.

Makes: 6 cups (at least 6 servings as a meal; more as a side dish or appetizer)
Time: 20-30 minutes (plus 3 hours chilling time if desired)


I wouldn't really describe this zucchini as "stuffed"--to me, stuffing implies some substantial material, like rice or ground beef or cheese, more or less inside another foodstuff. This is just garlic and parsley, and it isn't really inside the zucchini, it's laying in a sort of trough on top. Kids, this is basically just nicely seasoned whole zucchini. I've had the recipe for a while and when I lived alone I'd usually have it as an entree (with some bread and maybe cheese it's a decent vegetarian meal), but now that I've been seduced into the Cult of Occasional Meat-Preparing, it seems more like a side dish to me. It's not even fair to blame the meat-eating, because I'd still consider this stuffed zucchini an entree. But zucchini with garlic and parsley? Big green side dish. I think I served it with some grilled chicken when I made it recently (yeah, sorry, it was a few weeks ago and my memory is fading, don't judge me). It may be inaccurately named, but it does taste great; zucchini and garlic should just get married already, they go so well together.

8 small zucchini, about 4 inches long
5 plump garlic cloves, smashed and minced
2/3 cup minced fresh flat-leaf (Italian) parsley
1/2 cup olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Trim the ends of the zucchini, then make a long 1/2-inch-deep and slightly angled cut into the top of each zucchini, running lengthwise from end to end. Make a second slightly angled slice 3/4 inch from the first to create a shallow cavity in the zucchini, so you're cutting out a more or less triangular wedge. Remove and discard the wedge. (This isn't an exact science; just do your best to make some kind of resting place for the parsley-garlic mixture. Most of the zucchini should still be intact, though--you're removing an eighth of it at most.)

2. In a small bowl, mix together the garlic, parsley, half of the oil, and generous amounts of salt and pepper. Distribute this mixture among the prepared zucchini, packing the stuffing well into the cavities.

3. Arrange the zucchini in a shallow baking dish just large enough to hold them (usually an 8x8 Pyrex dish works just fine), then drizzle them with the remaining 1/4 cup oil.

4. Bake until the zucchini are tender and stuffing is browning on top, about 15-20 minutes.

Serves: 4
Time: 30 minutes

Tuesday, May 03, 2005


We had not been to the farmers' market in a month, which means we hadn't eaten tomatoes in a month, because I have apparently become too much of a snob to eat grocery-store tomatoes. Ah, California. I'd had this recipe for a long time, but only remembered making it once before. It seemed light and simple, a good way to enjoy fresh tomatoes. Nothing too out-of-the-ordinary, just the usual pasta suspects--olive oil, garlic, basil--with only the red wine vinegar, the pine nuts, and the coldness setting it apart from other recipes in my collection. And...that just about sums it up. An easy, summery recipe, nothing to jump up and down about, but certainly satisfying. My one comment is that making it takes a bit longer than I expected, not because there's a lot of effort involved, but because you have to wait for the pasta to cool (I guess you could run it under cold water, but pasta cookbooks don't usually recommend that because it washes off all the nice starch that holds a sauce together) and then let it marinate. Guess what? As usual, Little Miss Hungry and Impatient didn't plan ahead and start early, and The Simpsons was about to start, so I didn't really let the pasta marinate. I barely let it get down to room temperature before I ate it. It tasted great, but I did discern a much more complex melding of flavors when I ate the cold leftovers today. My advice: let it marinate if you have the time (I wouldn't chill it, but that's just me--cold food fresh out of the fridge generally gives me the willies), because it will taste more interesting, but if you don't, don't stress too much. I can't wait to make this on a really hot summer day when I can't bear the thought of leaning over a hot stove (yeah, you still have to boil pasta, but that requires minimal supervision) and have all afternoon to laze around and let the tastes blend. I'd like to give arugula a try, too.

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup olive oil
1 pound spaghetti
3 medium ripe tomatoes, cored, seeded, and finely diced
1 cup finely shredded fresh basil
1 cup chopped fresh arugula or parsley
1/4 cup pine nuts

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for cooking the pasta.

2. Heat the pine nuts in a small saucepan over medium heat, shaking them occasionally, until they're browned.

3. Combine the vinegar, garlic, salt, a generous amount of pepper, and olive oil in a small bowl and whisk them together. (Or, better yet, shake them together in a small jar with a tight-fitting lid--I keep an empty Grey Poupon jar for such purposes.)

4. When the water boils, drop in the spaghetti and cook until al dente. Drain it well and place it in a large serving bowl. (I'd recommend using the biggest bowl you can find, and if the pasta fills it so much you don't have any room to mix it around, try dividing it between two bowls or you'll be flinging oil and garlic around your kitchen every time you try to toss the noodles with the dressing. As I did.) Pour on HALF of the dressing and toss the pasta thoroughly to coat the strands. Let it cool to room temperature, tossing the noodles occasionally.

5. When the pasta has cooled, mix in the tomatoes, basil, parsley, pine nuts, and remaining dressing. Let it marinate at least one hour or up to 8 hours before serving (if you do chill the pasta while it's marinating, bring it up to room temperature before serving). Or you can flagrantly disregard this and serve it right away--either way, sprinkle a little more salt and pepper on top before eating.

Serves: 6
Time: 30 minutes, plus 1-8 hours marinating time