Totally tomatoes!
Baked Stuffed Tomatoes make use of some of our abundance as summer wears on. Only at this time of year can we garnish lavishly with our precious basil!

Totally tomatoes!

This is the time of year to preserve your bounty and to experiment with different tomato recipes

BELLOWS FALLS — “What's for dinner?”


“Didn't we have tomatoes for lunch?”

“Yep. Guess what we're having for breakfast?”

* * *

We wait all year for that blush of red in the garden, and the first few are precious. Nothing beats the flavor of fresh tomato, unadorned except for a sprinkle of salt, or the ritual of the first tomato sandwich - white bread, mayonnaise, thick slice of tomato, salt.

Then, all at once, we have tomatoes in abundance! We make bruschetta, fresh salsa, tomato sauce, tomato sauce to freeze, tomato soup, tomato water, and, of course, salad caprese and other tomato salads of all kinds and colors.

I have two cherry tomato plants in my yard, and one morning I picked more than 100 tomatoes! Then, a friend dropped off another pint - an embarrassment of riches of the best kind!

If you don't have a garden, this is the time of year to scout the farm stands and farmers' markets for bulk baskets of “canning tomatoes,” or those with blemishes or contorted shapes.

My mother used to can tomatoes, and if you have never canned before, this high-acid fruit is a good place to start. There are many good online sources of information, or you can follow the canning jar manufacturer's step-by-step instructions for safe handling.

You can also tuck tomatoes in the freezer with little prep for use all winter in soups and stews and sauces, my preferred method. Skin them first if you like, but if the skin is thin, this step is really not necessary.

* * *

For a different taste and texture, dehydrating is a great way to preserve the sun of the summer.

You don't have to sun-dry your tomatoes; your oven can do the work, and it does not rely on the weather, since our summers can be quite humid and wet, not ideal drying conditions.

Those 100 cherry tomatoes? They ended up sliced in half and placed cut-side up on a parchment-lined baking sheet, drizzled with a bit of olive oil, to rest in my convection oven for four hours at 175 degrees.

If your stove does not go that low, put it on the lowest setting and prop open the door. The time will vary greatly, so check at two hours; your tomatoes might need more than four hours.

Their texture will feel dry but still rubbery, and they will have an intense sweetness. Once they are dried, place them in olive oil. Store them in the refrigerator with some herbs to impart more flavor, or store them as is in a jar in a cool dry area.

* * *

This is also the time of year to experiment with different tomato recipes. Since we also have an abundance of zucchini this time of year, layer some slices in a casserole with sliced tomatoes, some garlic and herbs, and a minced shallot. Top with fresh bread crumbs and cheese, and bake until brown and aromatic. This recipe is good hot or cold.

One of my favorite summer recipes is baked tomatoes hollowed out and stuffed with corn and rice. I plan this dish when I have roasted corn the day before and when I also have rice - usually a nutty brown jasmine rice, my house staple - left over from another meal. And yes, I've used leftover steamed rice from Chinese takeout as well!

Baked tomatoes stuffed with corn and rice

This is a great dish to make when there is surplus of everything, even the basil to garnish. You can add other surplus vegetables to this stuffing - just keep the dice small and the vegetables mild in flavor.

I added a small zucchini when I last made this dish, and I've also added sweet peppers, sweet white turnip, and chopped green beans. Use any type of leftover rice you have on hand, or substitute with another cooked grain. Always include the roasted corn. Choose bruise-free fruit, that is firm but ripe.

To prep, butter a 9 in. x 13 in. baking dish, rectangle or oval. Place a double thickness of paper towel or a kitchen towel on a rimmed baking sheet, and position a strainer over a bowl where you will drain your tomato pulp.

Cut off the tops of:

¶6 firm, fat tomatoes

Reserve the tops for the baking. Scoop out the flesh and seeds, taking care to keep the shell of the tomato intact. The best method is to use a sharp paring knife to slice around the edge, leaving a thick wall, then switch to a grapefruit spoon (or the little orange scoop you get in the pumpkin carving kit) and remove all the pulp.

Place this flesh into the strainer, once drained, you will add it to the stuffing. Reserve the drained liquid for another use.

Place the tomato shells cut side down onto the towel-lined cookie sheet. You will want the tomatoes to drain for a half hour or so to remove any excess juice; this will allow them to keep their shape in the oven.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

In a shallow sauté pan, heat to foaming:

¶1 Tbsp. olive oil

¶1 Tbsp. butter


¶1 small onion, diced

¶1 rib celery, diced

¶1 poblano pepper, diced

Once the vegetables are soft but not brown, add:

¶2 cloves garlic, minced

Cook for a minute or so, until the garlic is fragrant. Place in a mixing bowl and add:

¶2 cups roasted corn

¶1 cup cooked rice

¶The reserved tomato flesh, chopped if necessary

¶1 Tbsp. each fresh basil & parsley, minced

¶1 tsp. fresh rosemary, minced

¶Salt and pepper to taste

Mix well, and adjust seasonings. You might want to add more herbs, or different types. Use what you like best, and taste as you go.

Place drained tomato shells in the prepared baking pan and scoop {1/2} cup of the stuffing into each, gently packing it in. If you have a little left over, mound it up. Place the little tomato tops back on, and cover with foil.

Bake on the middle rack for 20 minutes, then reduce the heat to 375. Cook for another 25 to 30 minutes or so. The dish is done when the skin starts to wrinkle, but the tomatoes are still intact. The kitchen will smell really good just about then!

Garnish with basil leaves!

Subscribe to the newsletter for weekly updates