The Oath

The Oath

Ok, everyone.  Repeat after me.  Let’s take our solemn Cooking God/Goddess oath. 

I ,(your name here),  do solemnly swear that I will never ever use inferior ingredients in my recipes  no matter how much I am tempted to save a few pennies or use up that expired product so help me (insert your higher being here).

Yep. I did it again.  I ruined a perfectly good recipe all for the sake of saving a few cents!  This year, I was blessed with a decent crop of tomatoes.  Just as my mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother before me, when life gives us tomatoes…we stuff them.  This recipe is really nothing fancy.  It’s basically just breadcrumbs and fresh herbs, salt, pepper and parmesan cheese, a good heavy hand of olive oil and baked for about an hour or so.  Summer, defined. 

Besides the garden fresh tomatoes, the main ingredient is breadcrumbs.  As I rifle through the cabinets, I make the discovery that I’m flat out.  Donned with my ‘shopping’ backpack, I head out the door and off to the store.  Determined, I make a bee-line to the aisle.  There it is…my ‘usual’ brand for 59 cents and there right next to it…the generic brand in its much larger bright red box. For 19 cents!  Nineteen cents I tell you!  What a bargain!  Still, I stand there inspecting each box.  In one ear, I hear all my ancestors whispering to me, “Get the good stuff, Lisa. Quality in = Quality out”. In the other ear I hear my husband, “It’s a tight month, Lisa, so please be thrifty”.  After 5 minutes worth of this mental angel/devil debate, home economics beats out tradition.  The generic brand wins. 

I hurry home full of nostalgia about my mother’s stuffed tomatoes.  Crispy on the top, tender inside, and wonderfully jammy on the bottom. All held together by a thin tomato skin.  I nearly floated home.

As I mixed the squeezed tomato juice with my new purchase.  I noticed it immediately.  Instead of a nice crumbly mass, it was gooey and leaden.  Hmm, maybe if I add more oil it will help.  Ignoring the internal warnings to just throw it all away, I slid them in the oven.  Maybe some alchemy and a miracle will occur in the next hour.  After an hour, I held my breath and closed my eyes as I opened the oven door.  Feeling like a Bugs Bunny cartoon, I carefully opened one eye and then the other focusing to see what occurred in my oven.  Quickly snapping my eyes back shut with a pursed –lipped ‘eeuuuooowww’.  It was the culinary equivalent of a charred-faced Daffy Duck. Instead of crispy, tender and jammy, they look like browned cement balls.  The tomatoes under them flat, black and greasy.  What a waste of my perfect, self-nurtured tomatoes, I think to myself. Yep, and the good olive oil, and fresh basil, and garlic and my time…  All to save 40 cents!  Still dealing with the devil, I wait for a bit until they’re cooled. They taste best at room temperature, you know.   After some time, I stick my fork in my first victim. It barely goes in.  Mental flash to all my relatives doing the ‘I told you so’ dance.   Not worth the calories, I concede, as I shovel the contents of the baking dish in the trash.   Lesson learned. 

For this recipe to be truly authentic, you’re going to have to conjure up the spirit of my thankfully very much alive mother.  She never uses a recipe for this. Neither do I.  It’s all by using your taste.

Rosie’s Stuffed Tomatoes

8 ripe round tomatoes (not roma)

About 1 cup or so of GOOD unflavored breadcrumbs

1 fat clove of  garlic – pressed

Handful of basil, chopped

2 teaspoons  of dried oregano (or to taste)

3 tablespoons of parmesan cheese ( or to taste)

Salt and pepper to taste

Olive oil (vegetable oil works here too)

Preheat oven to 350 F or 160C. Cut 6 tomatoes in half from the core, cutting the core in half.  Remove the core from both sides (You can core them before cutting. Just try to keep the hole as smalll as possible)  Remove the core from both sides.  Squeeze the pulp and juice into a bowl.  Use a spoon if it doesn’t come out easily.  Try not to crush the skins.  It’s going to hold everything together in the oven later.   Cut the other two tomatoes in half and squeeze out the juice into the bowl.  Reserve these two tomatoes for another use.  Chop any large bits of pulp small. Add garlic, herbs, salt, pepper and cheese. Add enough breadcrumbs to form a soft, loose mass.  It should squish easily between your fingers. If it doesn’t, add some water.  Taste it.  The taste should have a nice balance of herbs and salt. If it tastes bland, add more salt or cheese.  Pack into tomatoes.  Place in a baking dish.  Very generously add olive (or vegetable) oil over the tomatoes, patting with your hands to flatten a bit.  Bake uncovered.  After about 30 mins, flatten gently with a spatula.  Bake another 30 minutes  or until the tomatoes are flattened and crispy looking.  Cool to room temperature or serve cold.

3 Responses to “The Oath”

  1. Tom N. Says:

    I love your stuff! This has the makings of a book written all over it (pun absolutely intended.)

  2. Marie Says:

    YES!!! Been there, done that so many times, am embarased to admit it! Have taken the oath, but KNOW I will fail in keeping it due to my Bohemian (thrifty to the point of insanity) ethnic nature.

    And agree with Tom!

  3. lisa Says:

    Thank you everyone for your kind words! It really encourages me to write more. I also accept requests for topics 😀