These stuffed tomatoes are the essence of summer. Field-fresh tomatoes, stuffed with an aromatic, Mediterranean-inspired mixture of couscous, fresh herbs, mushrooms and olives, topped with creamy goat cheese — all together, this makes a delicate, light and fresh side dish for a barbecue or a late summer dinner.
Our tomatoes are ripening beautifully — one of the things I love best about summer is the ability to just head out into the back garden, or my partner's urban farm, and pick everything I need to make delicious, fresh dishes. I do get silly-excited when I see tomatoes on the vine, and I can occasionally be caught sitting beside a tomato plant, inhaling its fresh summer aroma.
This recipe for stuffed tomatoes is one of my summer standbys. Fresh tomatoes are key to this dish, of course. The herby flavor of the couscous salad also works brilliantly with fresh chèvre (or goat cheese). They make a delicious, simple and elegant starter, side dish, or even — served with a chunk of fresh, crusty french bread — a substantial lunch.
The whole dish takes minutes to assemble, and once in the oven, everything just roasts together, the tomatoes releasing their sweet, tangy juices into the couscous salad. The olives provide a salty, umami hit, and the light sprinkle of panko crumbs over top adds texture to this dish.
You can assemble the salad and stuff the tomatoes in advance, and they keep well in the fridge. If cooking from the fridge, bring them back to room temperature before placing in the oven to ensure that everything cooks evenly. Another alternative is to wrap the stuffed tomatoes in foil, and place on a barbeque (skip the panko, if doing this).
Whichever way you choose to make this dish, I can guarantee that this will soon become a summer staple in your home.
Herbed Couscous & Goat Cheese Stuffed Tomatoes
Makes 4 servings
4 large fresh tomatoes
1/2 cup uncooked couscous
1 cup vegetable stock
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra to drizzle over
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/4 cup chopped mushrooms, preferably wild mushrooms
Large handful fresh mixed herbs, finely chopped (like cilantro, parsley and green onions)
10 to 15 kalamata or black olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
4 to 5 ounces goat cheese (or chèvre) Salt and pepper to taste Small handful of seasoned panko crumbs
Heat the oven to 350°F.
Slice the tops off the tomatoes, and gently scoop out the seeds and insides (see Recipe Notes). Arrange them in a shallow roasting tin, and brush a little olive oil on the insides.
Place the couscous in a large bowl, and drizzle about a tablespoon of olive oil over top. Heat the vegetable stock in the microwave or on the stovetop until steaming, then pour over the couscous. Add a little salt, stir, and cover the bowl. Let the couscous steam for about 5 minutes (or according to package directions) Uncover and fluff up the couscous.
Heat the remaining olive oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat, and add the crushed garlic. Fry gently for about 30 seconds and add the mushrooms. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until the mushrooms are tender.
Stir the mushrooms, herbs and olives into the couscous, taste and adjust seasoning. Crumble about three quarters of the goat cheese into the couscous mixture and stir together.
Divide the couscous mixture evenly between the tomatoes. Crumble the remaining chèvre on top, then sprinkle with panko crumbs. Drizzle a little more olive oil over the top of each tomato.
Roast uncovered in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, until the tomatoes soften and the panko crumbs are crisp and golden. Serve warm.
The couscous stuffing can be used as a side salad by itself as an accompaniment to tagines or Moroccan style meats, or as an easy alternative to rice or pasta. You can also use it to stuff sweet peppers, zucchini or eggplant.
Don't discard the insides of the tomatoes, you can chop them up and freeze for use in pasta sauces.