On a day like today, Tomates Farcies (stuffed tomatoes) seem the perfect thing to have. Yes, I know, eating fresh tomatoes in Philadelphia in the middle of Winter is not eating "local"......but tomatoes are in season in Florida, so I'll just say that they are as local as can be at this time of year!
Tomates farcies is a very traditional French dish that some families only serve in the Summer (when tomatoes are in season). BUT if there is something I don't enjoy it's tomates farcies in the Summer. Because, somehow, even though les tomates might be de saison, the whole dish is hors saison. See, tomates farcies is a warm dish that would totally fall into the "Comfort Food" category.
You want to eat some when it's cold outside, not when you are having a late dinner outside because the house is still too warm from having caught so much sun during the day. Because, yes, of course, la clim (short for climatisation or AC), is NOT common in French homes (and I am sure that you all have lack-of-AC-in-France stories to tell!!). But who needs la clim when you have 3-feet-thick stone walls in your 200-year-old house and a great garden to enjoy your dinner? Franchement?
I make tomates farcies a few times during the Winter and they are always a hit with my family. In France, you can purchase the farce (stuffing made of pork) straight from the charcuterie but because I live in the US, I just purchase hot and mild Italian sausages that I open and mix with tomatoes, tomato sauce, cilantro (or Italian parsley) and Swiss cheese. Some people would add breadcrumbs to prevent too much juice from being released from the tomatoes but I never do. I always serve mes tomates farcies with rice, couscous or Quinoa.
If you are not familiar with Quinoa, it's a really healthy grain-like crop that originates in the Andean region in South America. It comes in yellow or red colors. It's very rich in proteins, high in magnesium and iron.... It's really easy to cook and versatile in its serving suggestions: you can eat it cold in a salad or even dessert; or warm as a side dish. I have come to cooking Quinoa a lot when I don't want to serve wheat to my children one day. I'll publish more recipes with Quinoa in the future, stay tune. In the meantime, stay warm.. and make tomates farcies soon (unless it's Summer where you live). I am sure they'll make it to your top-10 Comfort Food! Bon Appétit!
- 1 or 2 tomatoes per person: you want medium-size or big tomatoes, not plum-size. I like sto use Beefsteak tomatoes
- Hot or mild Italian sausages; about 1/4 - 1/2 per tomato
- Fresh cilantro or fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped
- Tomato Sauce ( I generally use about 1.5 cups for 8 medium tomatoes)
- Grated Swiss cheese (I generally use 1/2 cup for 8 medium tomatoes)
- Salt and Black pepper to taste
My Personal Comments:
- Pre-heat oven to 375F (180C)
- Slice the top of the tomatoes and keep them (we call them chapeau (or hat)).
- Carve the tomatoes, trying not to cut through the skin. Reserve everything you get out (la chair)
- Place carved tomatoes in a baking dish. They have to be tight so that they don't fall apart when they bake.
- Take the skin of the sausages out and put the meat in a large bowl
- Cut the chair a tomates in small dices, discard the extra juice and mix in the dices into the sausages
- Add cilantro (or Italian parsley), Swiss Cheese
- Pour tomato sauce and mix well,
- Add salt and black pepper to taste
- Stuff the tomatoes and cover them with their chapeau.
- Cook in the oven for 40 minutes.
- I use pork, chicken or turkey sausages depending on what's available at the supermarket that day.
- The tomatoes will release a lot of juice as they cook. I use it to cook the Quinoa or to pour over it.
- You can reheat the tomates farcies; you can therefore make them in advance. Just cover them with foil so that they don't dry too much when you reheat them.