Monday, February 18, 2013

Stuffed Tomatoes (Breadcrumbs, Spinach & Cheese)

Tomatoes sweeten even more when baked. In the latest Cheapskate Chef recipe tomatoes are stuffed with cheese, breadcrumbs, garlic and spinach for a scrumptious vegetarian entree.

Like bell peppers, all you have to do is slice off the tops or divide in half, then scoop out the seeds for a tasty container that can hold almost anything, even your favorite meatloaf mix (mine is here.) Baking caramelizes the tomato and the melting cheese mixes into the breadcrumbs and spinach to delicious effect.

While tomatoes are not the cheapest fruit, they are always coming on sale. My local 99c only Store and my favorite Latin Market stock them at the right price. And if you plant a summer garden, definitely bookmark this recipe for harvest time.

You can use pre-made breadcrumbs, but they are so easy to make you might as well do it yourself (my recipe is here,) because you can use more nutritious types of bread instead of plain white (try whole wheat and multi-grain sometime.) And any type of inexpensive cheese can be mixed in -- it's up to you.

If you use large tomatoes then you have an easy-to-make filling meatless meal. If the tomatoes are small then they can be served as a accompaniment to the main course, or even as appetizers for your next gathering.

Now that it's colder, time to warm up the kitchen with an oven full of The 99 Cent Chef's Stuffed Tomatoes with Breadcrumbs, Spinach & Cheese. And this is a perfect Meatless Monday meal.

Ingredients (2 servings)
  • 2 large tomatoes - I used about 6-8 small ones. Cut length wise (for Italian,) or just lop off the tops (for tomatoes that will not tip over) and scoop out seeds.
  • 1/2 package or 1/2 bunch of spinach - roughly chopped, about 3 cups.
  • 3/4 cup of breadcrumbs - okay to use a little more or less.
  • 1/2 small package of cheese - about 3 ounces. Again, okay to use more or less. Any favorite cheese - I used mozzorella.
  • 1 teaspoon of chopped garlic
  • 2 teaspoons oil - one for sauteing spinach, and the other to coat roasting pan.
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Clean and roughly chop spinach, about 3 cups worth. Add teaspoon of oil and chopped garlic to pan. Saute over a medium heat for a minute.

Add chopped spinach, stir and cook unit wilted and soft. Should take 2-4 minutes.

Go ahead and prep the tomatoes while the spinach cooks. You can slice tomatoes a couple of ways: lengthwise for tomatoes that will not sit upright like Italian tomatoes. or narrow types; or you can just lop off the top of more wide and squat tomatoes.

With a spoon scoop out seeds and pulp from tomatoes and discard (or save for a tomato sauce.)

Now time to bring it all together. In a bowl add cheese, breadcrumbs and spinach. Mix well. You can use pre-made breadcrumbs or make your own. (Just click here to see how I do it with 2 slices of bread.) Depending on the size of your tomatoes, you may need some more of these ingredients -- it's easy enough to make a larger batch of stuffing.

Fill each tomato cavity with cheese, spinach and breadcrumb stuffing. Go ahead and carefully pack it in.

Since tomatoes are high in sugar, they may stick to baking pan. I used an oil spray to coat my baking cookie sheet, you could just drizzle a teaspoon of oil and rub it over the surface. Arrange the Stuffed Tomatoes on the pan.

Bake the Stuffed Tomatoes for about 45 minutes at 350 degrees. Done when the tomato skin wrinkles and the tomatoes begin to collapse. The cheese and breadcrumbs will lightly brown.

Very hot when done so let them set a minute, then dig in!

During baking a couple of the tomatoes with tops cut off tipped over and the stuffing started to run out. I carefully made them right before the cheese melted out. So be sure to check about half way though baking and straighten any tomatoes that fall over.

You can also use ground beef, turkey or chicken mixed into the stuffing for hardier fare.

If you like a cheesy stuffing then add more of it - same thing if you want more spinach. Since tomatoes come in such unpredictable sizes, you may need more or less stuffing, but the stuffing mix is easy enough to expand.

This recipe is easy to double when you get a bountiful harvest of tomatoes, or if you are luck enough to have a farmers market or roadside stand that carries locally grown tomatoes.

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