At holiday time, I eat more than I should, over commit when I offer to bring a dish, and find that meal planning often goes out the window. My all-too-frequent holiday grocery store runs are not the organized affairs they should be and my brain seems to freeze up almost as frequently as my laptop.
Is there a cure for this state of affairs? I doubt there is a drug or therapeutic remedy covered by my health plan, and certainly no way to prevent the chaos that is part-and-parcel of my basic personality. But I do have a way to bring down the stress level and regain a sense of what holiday time should really be about. I play with food.
Whether you call it a science experiment, recipe development or simply having fun, I potchke (Yiddish for fool around) with food for relaxation. Hopefully at the end, I have something worth eating, but if not and I’ve had a good time, so be it.
Today, I found tomatoes, some fresh thyme, pitted Kalamata olives and cream cheese leftover from parties last week. I gathered my thoughts, tinkered, and result was stuffed tomatoes. This recipe describes the approximate amounts required for a single Campari tomato; you can easily multiply the ingredient proportions for as many tomatoes as you want to make. Each stuffed tomato half is about 3 bites worth, so they are nice appetizers for a party.
Campari tomatoes are smaller than regular sized tomatoes and larger than cherry or grape tomatoes. They are typically sold with the stem. Although they are not as good as locally grown, they are at least decent-tasting.
Stuffed Tomato Appetizer
- 1 Campari tomato – cut in half and hollowed out
- A second fresh Campari or several grape or cherry tomatoes, or a sun-dried tomato
- Olive oil (if roasting fresh tomatoes – see below)
- Fresh or dried herbs (I used fresh thyme leaves), chopped or crushed
- 3-4 Kalamata (Greek oil-cured) olives, finely chopped
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- 2-3 tablespoons of cream cheese or soft goat cheese at room temperature
- Cutting board
- Small, sharp knife
- Spoon (grapefruit spoon works best, but any small spoon will work)
- Brush or paper towel if roasting tomatoes (to spread oil on toaster oven pan)
- Cut the Campari tomato in half and hollow it out (discarding the seeds and membranes that attach seeds to the tomato) with a spoon or small, sharp knife. A grapefruit spoon (with a serrated tip) is ideal, but a regular small spoon will work, with or without a knife for assistance.If you are using fresh tomatoes for the stuffing, cut them in half, place on a toaster oven pan brushed with olive oil and roast in a toaster oven at 450 degrees for approximately 8 minutes. Roasting tomatoes intensifies their flavor.
- If you are using a sun-dried tomato that is not already reconstituted, follow the directions for cooking it in the sun-dried tomato, basil and goat cheese spread recipe. Finely chop the roasted or sun-dried tomato or tomatoes.
- Add the herbs, salt and pepper, roasted or sun dried tomato to the cheese and mix well.
- Stuff the Campari tomato halves with the mixture. Add a slice of olive on top for garnish.
- Refrigerate if not serving immediately. Ideally, make them a few hours in advance, to give the flavors time to meld. Take out of the refrigerator about 30-45 minutes before serving.