The first-place recipe in this year's Top Tomato contest proves that a glorious, height-of-summer specimen needs only simple adornment to achieve winning results. Leonardtown resident Ellynne Brice Davis got the idea from hors d'oeuvres of stuffed cherry tomatoes she had at parties earlier in the year: "This vertical presentation satisfies my craving for tomato, basil and mozzarella, all in a single serving," she says. The addition of pecans to the filling and a fair amount of sugar in the dressing lend sweetness and crunch.
Does Davis's name ring a bell? Her recipe for Breton Bay Baked Oysters in Tomato Cups was a finalist in last year's competition.
- 4 large ripe red tomatoes, trimmed level on the bottom
- 1/2 cup loosely packed basil leaves, rolled tightly and cut into very thin strips (chiffonade)
- 1/2 cup thinly shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1/4 cup pecan halves, coarsely chopped and preferably toasted (see NOTE)
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic pepper, such as McCormick brand
- Spring mix greens, for serving
Lay the tomatoes on their sides on a cutting board. Use a serrated knife to make 3 deep slits in each one, spaced evenly apart, being careful not to cut all the way through to the other side. Stand the tomatoes upright on the cutting board, so the slits are horizontal and the stems are on top.
Combine the basil, mozzarella cheese and pecans in a medium bowl.
Whisk together the sugar, oil, vinegar, salt and garlic pepper in a small bowl to form a dressing. Drizzle a small amount of the dressing into each tomato slit (just to moisten), then use the basil-cheese-pecan filling to fill the slits in each tomato.
Place a small amount of the greens on individual salad plates, then place a stuffed tomato on top of each portion. Drizzle the remaining dressing evenly over the filling in each serving. Chill briefly, if desired, before serving. Use any remaining dressing to drizzle around the greens on each plate.
NOTE: To toast nuts, spread them on a baking sheet and place in a 325-degree oven, shaking the sheet occasionally, for 15 minutes. Watch carefully; nuts burn quickly.
From Top Tomato 2009 Ellynne Brice Davis of Leonardtown.
Tested by Sue Kovach Shuman.
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