So, I'm sitting at work playing on E2. I've got a another busted tooth and I'm starving, thinking about dinner. It occurs to me that mushrooms would be really tasty. I type 'mushroom' into the handy-dandy search box, click the Ignore Exact button and E2 offers me a handful of recipes. What I'm about to relate was inspired by LPM's fantastic recipe in Stuffed Tomatoes with Herbs and Mushrooms.

As I am adventurous in the kitchen, not a vegetarian or vegan, wanting a different node title and poor, I altered her recipe fairly drastically. Enjoy :)

Ingredients

Assembly Portion

Let me say first that this was my first time assembling anything like this so I was making it up as I went along and, while hopeful, was mostly curious about what the results would be. I had no intention of being upset if it didn't work and would have just considered it a learning experience. Fortunately, it worked out great. I'll share what I learned so that you can modify the recipe to suit your desires.

Firstly I removed the Italian sausages from their skins, casings, and tore them into little bits - I shredded them into meat paste. This was thrown into a pan over medium heat. I didn't worry about oil as I knew the sausage would make its own grease in no time. I was not disappointed.

While the sausage was cooking to a golden brown (or darker and crispier if you so desire) I began mincing the mushrooms and shallots. In another pan I first threw the shallots, followed shortly by the mushrooms. I used clarified butter so that I could cook these faster over a higher heat. After they'd been in there a moment or two I added my herbs and spices.

Some thoughts and explanations on this second step:

I mentioned clarified butter and a higher heat. I did this so that the mushrooms and shallots would not have to cook too long, I did not want a complete blending of flavors. If you do not want to go to this trouble than simply use olive oil or one of its kin, or, use regular butter and turn the heat down to medium or less. My own approach in the kitchen is rather loose, slapdash. I think of it 'artistically' and tend to avoid weighing or measuring.

That said, when it comes to these herbs and spices - add until it smells yummy, basically. I put in quite a bit of parsley for the color. Rosemary and oregano can be done by smell. The garlic can be done by smell as well as it is melted into the butter before any other ingredients go in. If you don't have one or some of these then by all means substitute. Cilantro would probably be excellent in this, sage and thyme might be worth considering.

While things were cooking I cored my tomatoes. Is that the right word? I don't know. I chopped the tops off, ran the knife around the inside to loosen things up a bit and then used a spoon to scoop out the insides. I wasn't sure how this step was going to go, I needn't have worried. The tomatoes emptied right out and I didn't ruin a single one by cutting too deep or scooping too close to a wall. I made sure to keep each top with each tomato so that I could reassemble them later.

When the sausage finished cooking I put it into a big bowl. When the mushrooms and shallots finished I dumped them on top of the sausage. Over this I grated an ounce or two of the mozzarella. Over that I dumped, maybe, a quarter cup to a half cup of the bread crumbs. I mixed all this together with a big spoon and then stuffed it into the tomatoes. I put the tops back on the tomatoes and put them into a pre-heated oven, 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and let them cook for 15 minutes or so.

I used the oven-time to clean up my kitchen and grate some more mozzarella. When the tomatoes were close to done I pulled them out, flipped the oven over to broil, pulled the tops off, sprinkled fresh mozzarella over them and put them in for another minute. With the tops reapplied at a rakish angle for serving I filled myself up on three of them while my pretty neighbor lady polished off two with evident satisfaction.


Some final thoughts on the recipe:

First, I think this recipe is infinitely variable. Any type of sausage would be good, any type of mushrooms, any type of onions and any spices. Different meats may be substituted; I plan on trying both Canadian bacon and pepperoni. Completely different vegetables can go in... a different cheese or multiple cheeses... Really, anything can go into these tomatoes and should come out warm and edible. Creating a culinary masterpiece is just a matter of experimenting and soliciting opinions.

The sausage I used did not create too much grease. If yours does then consider draining it. Seasoned hamburger, for instance, should be drained. The butter I used quite a bit of but it was all adequately absorbed by the mushrooms and shallots. If you use oil, or butter, and there is liquid leftover in the pan, again consider draining it. The breadcrumbs will absorb quite a bit of the moisture so this isn't too big of a worry. If you happen to go too far and they come out on the dry side you can always slice them open and drizzle a bit of oil over them with some fresh herbs; it'll be as if it were part of the presentation.

The breadcrumbs I used were unseasoned as I did not want the MSG and super strong herbs that come in the seasoned breadcrumbs to overpower my own selected seasonings. If, however, you want to make this a little easier or a little less expensive then consider getting seasoned breadcrumbs instead. With these permeating the entire dish the mushrooms and shallots can be cooked without much seasoning at all.

And last, the effect I was going for was a flavorful mash. There is no reason that all of the ingredients need to be minced though. The mushrooms and onions can be rough cut, the sausage left in larger chunks. Croutons can be substituted for the breadcrumbs. I'm sure it will taste just as good and still make for a great presentation.

After several years in the desolate wastelands of supermarket vegetables, I find myself in a situation where I'm able to return to subscribing to an organic vegetable box scheme. Supposedly small things please small minds, but this really does make me happy. When I get around to writing about organic vegetable box schemes, I shall explain why, but for now, content yourselves with this recipe which came about as a result of the gorgeous plum tomatoes that arrived on Tuesday.

You might think that lpm and I are the bi-hemispheral stuffed vegetable queens. This isn't something we set out to achieve deliberately, we just seem to like concocting fillings and cramming them into oh-so-tasty vegetables. And this is different to anything we've written about before now. Promise.


Ingrediments for four: two meat-eaters and two vegetarians

  • The basics
    • 8 large tomatoes, beef or plum
    • 3oz (90g) rice (I am resolutely of the Basmati persuasion for anything other than risotto, or paella, or rice pudding, or sushi, or South East Asian food, or...or...or...)
    • 3oz (90g) frozen spinach, defrosted
    • ½ large onion, finely chopped
    • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
    • 4tbsp sultanas
    • 1tbsp pine nuts
    • ½tspn cumin
    • ½tspn cinnamon
    • Splash of olive oil
    • salt and pepper

  • For the meat-eaters
    • 2oz (50g) ground lamb

  • For the vegetarians
    • 4tbsp strong-flavoured, hard-textured cheese (I used Parmigiano, which isn't a vegetarian cheese because it uses rennet. However, my Dining Companion is content with this. Check first.)


Method

Preheat your oven to 180° Celsius or gas mark 4.

Begin by cooking the rice using your preferred method, draining it, and allowing it to cool slightly.

Whilst the rice is cooking and cooling, you need to do three other things: cook the onions and garlic, cook the meat, and prepare the tomatoes for stuffing.

Fry the onions and garlic in a splash of olive oil until they're glassy and then transfer them to a large mixing bowl.

Using the same pan as the onions and garlic (don't bother to wash it up), fry off the lamb.

Prepare the tomatoes for stuffing. I used plum tomatoes, so sliced them lengthways and scooped out the seeds and core using a teaspoon. If I had used beef tomatoes, I would probably have sliced off their tops to scoop out the middle. Season the inside of the tomatoes with salt and pepper, and rub the outsides with a little olive oil and a sprinkling of salt.

In the large mixing bowl containing the onion and garlic, combine the slightly cool rice, the spinach, the sultanas and pine nuts, the spices, and some salt and pepper.

Divide the stuffing into two bowls, and mix the cheese into one and the meat into the other.

Using a teaspoon, stuff half of the tomatoes with the cheese mixture and half with the meat mixture. Pack them into two separate baking dishes and place in the oven for between 30 and 40 minutes; the tomatoes should be tender, but with toasty edges.

Dining Companion and I ate these with new potatoes and salad from my father's garden, as well as a rather lovely bottle of St Emilion because, well it was a Wednesday night and the Netherlands have made it to the final of the World Cup.


Music to cook to: The Dirty Projectors

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