I'm not a big fan of the traditional stuffed tomatoes you can find in the traiteurs around Paris. Like my old arch-enemy the stuffed pepper, they are usually filled with bland meaty stuffing and cooked to the point of sliminess. However, I do like the idea of stuffing vegetables; it's an interesting way to introduce new flavors to old favorites and usually looks pretty nifty too. (Though it has to be admitted that stuffed mushrooms are not very photogenic.) We are starting to get some nice tomatoes from Spain in the Paris area and so I decided to try stuffing them in a spring-like, non-meaty-and-bland way.
When I finished, I realized I had essentially made a cheese and tomato sandwich inside out. It was delicious and a lot more fun to eat than a sandwich. And it looked elegant too!
Inside-Out Cheese and Tomato Sandwiches (serves two)
These would make a great starter for a dinner party or interesting finger food for a cocktail party. You could also bring them along on a summer picnic. They need a little time in the fridge to firm up, which means you can make them well in advance.
2 small ripe tomatoes
1 slice of soft whole wheat bread
2 Tbs Boursin cheese
1/3 cup roughly chopped hazelnuts
1/3 cup finely chopped rocket (arugula)
Cut the tops off the tomatoes and reserve them. Use a spoon to gently carve out the center of the tomato, reserving the juice. Cut the bread in squares roughly the size of the circumference of the tomatoes. Dip one of the bread squares in the tomato sauce and place it in the bottom of a tomato. Spoon in a little of the cheese, then the nuts and then a layer of rocket. Repeat, making sure to reserve a little of the cheese. When the tomato is full (mine only took two layers, but it depends on how much you put in each) top with the remaining cheese and squish down the top of the tomato. Refrigerate for at least an hour. When serving, slice the tomato open to show how pretty it is inside. If you are serving them as finger food, slice into quarters lengthwise.
Some notes on the ingredients:
Boursin is a commercially produced herb and garlic goat's cheese. If you can't find it in your supermarket, you could mix a few tablespoons of creamy goat cheese with half a crushed garlic clove and some finely chopped herbs such as basil, dill and parsley. Blue cheese would also probably be very tasty as a substitute.
I intended to use walnuts instead of hazelnuts but they are not in season and so I couldn't find them. Either would be delicious!
Use flavorful tomatoes always. In this instance, I used normal small red ones, but I think Italian plum tomatoes would be even better.
The rocket adds a definite spicy element to the tomatoes, and so if you can't find flavorful lettuce I would probably just skip it. Most lettuce leaves get slimy when in contact with wet things (like the inside of a tomato or creamy goat cheese) and so I wouldn't bother unless they are adding some punch to the flavors.