It’s taken me a while to truly understand how great a tomato can be. For years, I was convinced that there was no grosser dish than the red food with identity issues (Fruit? Vegetable? So confusing…) It took a tasty BLT by my best friend to make me realize that tomatoes shouldn’t just be relegated to condiments, carefully scattered inside a crispy taco. No, the tomato can serve as a much grander culinary vessel through which the average cook can play with flavor combinations.
In this particular recipe, the tomato becomes an edible basket for mushrooms, onions, green peppers and bacon. In reality, a great assortment of other fillers can be played with once this recipe has been conquered.
Most of the time in this recipe will be spent on prep work and even that doesn’t take very long. The ingredients are relatively basic and, as I mentioned, you can adjust the recipe for fit your taste preferences.
Tomatoes (4 makes 4 servings, 5 makes 5 and so on)
2 cups chopped button mushrooms (can be roughly cut)
2 cloves garlic, chopped finely
3/4 cup of chopped onions
1/2 cup chopped green peppers
Bacon (5-6 strips) *you can use pork or turkey
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Oven safe baking dish
The first thing to do is wash your tomatoes gently with a little soap to make sure the outer skins are clean and safe to eat. Once you’ve dried them with a napkin, cut the tomatoes in half, as you would an apple. Using a spoon, scoop out the seeds and discard (or eat them! Some people love tomato guts, so feel free to snack while you prep the rest.) Using a little olive oil, coat the tomatoes and sprinkle with a little salt. Place these inside the baking dish and let sit
In a skillet or large pan, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and heat on a low flame. Once the oil is hot, add garlic and sauté until they begin to get tender. Add the onion and do the same, stirring with a spatula or plastic spoon (so as to not scrape your pan!) Add the peppers and mushrooms, cooking until most of the liquid from both has evaporated and they have begun to get tender. Turn off the heat. Turn on over to 300 degrees F.
In another pan, fry the bacon. Once the bacon is crispy (it MUST be crispy), transfer the pieces onto a plate covered in a napkin. Don’t discard the bacon drippings!!! Once cooled, crumble the bacon into small pieces. Turn the burner under the vegetables back on and pour some of the bacon drippings onto the vegetables. Add half the bacon to the pan and stir. Turn off the burner.
Using a spoon, fill the tomatoes with the vegetable/bacon mix. Sprinkle the rest of the bacon onto the tomatoes and cover these with the cheese as well. Place the baking dish in the oven and cook for about 20 minutes or until the tomatoes have become fork tender.
If you make four tomatoes for two people, this can be the meal itself with maybe a salad or other light side to accompany it. If not, this can be a great appetizer for a larger get together.
For those of you who like to keep things animal friendly, you can remove the bacon from the recipe and instead use only the vegetables. Maybe even play around and dip the tomatoes in some vegetable stock for a few minutes to add some more flavors to the dish! Just make sure not to leave it too long, since the tomato is naturally a watery fruit and you don’t want it turning to mush.
All in all, this has been one of my favorite appetizers/meals to make ever! Everything takes about 40 minutes, even less if you chop quickly! I’ve made this for parties, family gatherings, solo dinners, dinner with friends, and not once has someone told me they didn’t like it. There are never any leftovers and tomato lovers and skeptics alike learn than the tomato can be just as versatile as any other food out there.
Go on and give it a try! I’m sure you can become a believer too 🙂