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Stuffed tomatoes


I love this time of year. It’s usually when our backyard garden is at it’s peak, and my menu planning is guided by a Sunday afternoon harvest. We had a late and rocky start to planting this year due to some unexpected SDGE projects in our yard, and I was worried that we wouldn’t have the success we’ve had in previous summers. Thankfully we’ve got a very powerful “volunteer” tomato that sprouted and has completely taken over a corner. It’s been giving us a handful of tomatoes every week, and this week we got an abundance!

I saw a video online recently for stuffed tomatoes, and was reminded of making stuffed tomatoes in a cooking class in Italy during my study abroad program in 2005. Unfortunately I couldn’t get my hands on that recipe, but between perusing The Silver Spoon and a few online recipes, here’s what we landed on: Plump hollowed out tomatoes stuffed with zucchini, rice, tomatoes and herbs, surrounded by diced tomatoes.


Stuffed Tomatoes

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Print

7 tomatoes
1/2 yellow onionIMG_2635 3 garlic cloves
1 zucchini
1/4 cup cooked rice
1/2 lemon
2 small yukon gold potatoes
olive oil
salt and pepper
parmesan cheese optional for finishing
an abundance of italian herbs. I used rosemary, oregano, thyme and basil

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Slice the tops off of the tomatoes and reserve. Using a spoon, hollow out the inside of the tomato, and scoop the flesh into a bowl. If desired, turn the tomatoes upside down and let them drain. I’m not entirely sure of the benefits of this, but I do feel like the sides of my tomatoes held up a bit better. Pulse onion, garlic, 1 tsp olive oil and a pinch salt in a food processor or blender, and dump into a large bowl. Separate tomato flesh chunks from the juice and pulse in the food processor, add to large bowl. Shred zucchini in food processor or with a grater, and add to large bowl. Add rice, lemon juice, a generous pinch of salt, pepper, and chopped herbs to everything in the large bowl. Place the tomatoes into an oiled baking dish. Using a fork to slightly drain the mixture, stuff the hollowed out tomatoes with the zucchini rice mixture.

Dice up the potatoes and toss with salt, pepper, olive oil and herbs. Stuff potatoes all around tomatoes. Pour the remaining tomato juice and any juices from the stuffing mixture over the potatoes.

Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, turn the heat down to 385 degrees and bake for an additional 20 minutes. If desired, finish with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese before the last 5 minutes of baking.

Serve with a small green salad and some crusty bread, and a nice glass of red wine. Bon appetit!



Filed under cooking, Cooking Project, Dinner, Recipes

A Taste of Europe: Germany

We visited Heidelberg and Munich while in Germany for four days.

Heidelberg is a small town on the Nektar River, which branches off of the Rhine River. It’s so cute and quaint, since it’s one of the few towns that was never bombed during WWII, and has retained it’s original character. For our first German meal here, we found a restaurant “Sum Guldnen Schaf,” picked for its very German signage and closeness to our hotel. I ordered sausages with sauerkraut and potato hash. Randy got a braised pork knuckle and a potato dumpling. The braised pork knuckle was delicious, and an enormous piece of meat!

For dinner, we had done a little research and knew that we wanted to go to the Schnitzel Bank. This bar used to make wine barrels for a Riesling distributor, and then realized that they could make more money actually selling the wine! They had full glasses of deliciously crisp Riesling on tap for 5 euro each. The seating is family style around large irregular tables, with lots of old barrel making tools decorating the walls. The vibe inside was so friendly and warm, which was great, since it was absolutely freezing outside (well, freezing to this California girl anyways!). We split a pork schnitzel with a garlic sauce, a really good salad and a delicious spicy tomato soup. I saw that my neighbor had a plate of spaetzel and well, I just had to have some. So we ended up ordering a second plate to split. I’m so glad we did! The spaetzel was so unbeliveable delicious! It’s basically a German macaroni and cheese, but with specially made dough and I think raclette cheese. I recently tried to recreate this with Gruyere, and while it was still good, it was nothing like the original. We proceeded to drink a lot of Riesling on tap and chat with a few neighbors from the States before the brisk walk back to our hotel.

We stayed at a great hotel in Heidelberg: Gasthaus Backmulde. The provided us with a complimentary breakfast that was the best we ate on our trip, and left gummy bears on our pillow!

We grabbed some pretzels to go, and took the train from Heidelberg to Munich, and straight into Oktoberfest. Oktoberfest is a lot like the Del Mar Fair when you walk in, except that it’s FREE and instead of expo halls and animals, there are giant beer tents. We walked around for a little bit, shared a bratwurst and ventured into one of the beer halls. I must say we did not know what to expect! I thought that we could go in and find a place to sit down, or a least grab a drink at the bar and walk around. Not the case! It was like being the only sober one at a party full of drunks. The tables were all packed or reserved, and there wasn’t anywhere to sit. The waiters walked through the hallways with 12 liters of beer at a time, or giant trays of food, blowing whistles to get you out of their way. There is a small unreserved section in each tent where you can try to wait for a space, and you can’t order a beer without having a seat. We took one lap around, got overwhelmed, and decided we’d have our first beer at one of the outdoor beer gardens while we formulated a game plan. Fortified with a bit of liquid courage, we ventured into another beer tent and decided to hang around the exit of the unreserved section, or the “mosh pit” as we came to call it. We got pretty lucky and about four people left pretty quickly, and we were able to swoop in and ask to take their spots at the table. We ended up at a table of all English speakers – most from California actually! It was great fun. We enjoyed two more liters of beer and sang along to lots of 80’s rock music. We missed a real dinner, but did split a pretzel bigger than my face!

The next day we went in search of a hearty breakfast, but to no luck. We found one breakfast restaurant that had more than coffee and pastries, but it wasn’t all that great. After breakfast, we purchased some official Oktoberfest attire, and headed back to the Oktoberfest festival. This time we arrived earlier, and were able to get a table and order a late lunch. We ordered a radish salad, braised pork knuckle, crispy duck, potato dumplings, and an apple cabbage slaw. Everything was so good! The radishes were so refreshing and the meats were all melt in your mouth delicious. We both really liked the apple cabbage slaw, and thought it complimented the braised pork really well. We explored a few more of the beer tents and had another fun night.

The next day we did a bike tour of Munich, and had lunch at a really cool beer garden in the middle of the English Gardens in the city. We got more of the same kind of food we’d been eating in Germany: pretzels, beer, pork knuckle, and spaetzle – with one new thing recommended by our tour guide: Obatzda. This is a mixture of cheeses and spices, paired with pickled vegetables and delicious spread on our pretzels.IMG_8497

In Germany we did find a beer garden cookbook in English, so look for some attempted recreations of these delicious foods coming from our kitchen. Until next time!


Filed under Review, Travel

A Taste of Europe: Paris, France

I feel like Paris is on eveIMG_8352ry food lovers wish list. Fantasizing about baguettes and perfectly airy croissants…sigh. I’m ready to go back right now. Also, I didn’t take nearly enough food photos! At most restaurants we were so close to our neighbors, I was a bit embarrassed to pull out my camera.  I’ve struggled with the best way to sum everything up for you, but here goes:

The highlights!

Our last night’s dinner was our food highlight of Paris so let’s start there. After the difficulties we had finding somewhere for dinner on our first night, we made it a priority to make reservations for our last night. We ended up at La Villaret, which was listed in the Michelin guidebook as a recommended restaurant. We both made selections from the four course chef’s menu. The menu was in French, but we both thought that we recognized enough words to make a choice. Our waiter was very friendly. We started with an amuse bouche of a creamy corn soup with crispy corn kernels on top. For our first course, I selected the “fromage a tet” – which I first thought was a cheese course, but our waiter explained to me that it was actually a “head cheese” – made from meats of the head. I decided to be adventurous, and I’m so glad I did! It was deliciously rich, and served on top of a bed of shredded celery root in a slightly sweet and acidic vinaigrette which cut through the rich meaty flavor. Hubby got a cauliflower soup that was also very good and creamy. For our entree’s, hubby got a coq-a-vin with mashed potatos, and I got pot-au-feu with beef. It was nice classic comfort food, which fit with the blustery weather outside. For dessert, hubby got a vanilla pot du creme with graham cracker cookies and I got a pistachio mousse with figs and shortbread.

Not entirely food related, but our best memory from Paris was grabbing a chilled bottle of champagne, and enjoying it in the park underneath the Eiffel Tower.


Other dinner adventures at places I sadly forgot the names:

Our first night in Paris, we started wandering around looking for a place to grab dinner. We found a few restaurants on back streets with great looking menus. What we did not realize is that the majority of the nicer restaurants are TINY! Also, since the meals are so leisurely and drawn out, there is not much turnover. We soon found out that reservations are a must! We did find a more touristy cafe with lots of al fresco seating to get dinner. Not quite what we were hoping for but still good. I got a duck confit with potatos, and hubby got a pasta dish, along with lots of delicious bread and cheap wine.

We were staying in the Bastille District, and set out for the cluster of restaurants in our neighborhood for Saturday night’s dinner. Since all of the restaurants here are so tiny, you end up sharing tables with your neighbors. At this restaurant in particular, our waiter had to pull our table out so that I could sit down on the other side of it, then slide it back in between the two groups on either side of us. It did make conversation a bit awkward as we both couldn’t help eavesdropping on our neighbors! Here we tried the foie gras, which was good but not as good as the one we had in Nice. I had a squid stuffed with smaller shellfish and greens on a bed of potatoes – beautiful presentation, and very rich. Hubby got “echine de cochon” or a pork back over seasonal vegetables. Of course, we shared a delicious pastry for dessert with a delightful caramel filling.

Sunday night dinner was at a cafe near the Picasso Museum. We shared a butter, salt and radish appetizer – so simple and so good. I enjoyed a delicious french onion soup, and hubby had a really good beef tartare.

Other memorable bites

Savory crepes along the Siene.

The first thing we ate was a savory crepe along the Siene: buckwheat batter full of emmentalier cheese and sausage.

For breakfast most days, we grabbed almond croissants and coffee “for take away” to enjoy as we made our way to various places around the city.

Gelato in Montemarte.

We enjoyed refreshing gelato in the Montemarte plaza.

We wandered around the Latin quarter, and stumbled upon on a Vietnamese restaurant for our lunch. This was the only place that we felt like we had a bit of a language barrier, but the food was very delicious.

On Sunday afternoon we ended up near the Alesia metro station, and stumbled upon a huge open air market. There was fresh seafood, meats, cheeses, produce – I wished we were staying longer and somewhere with a kitchen so I could shop! We did end up getting a delicious chocolate crepe to munch on as we wandered around admiring everything.

We planned a picnic lunch for the gardens in Versaille – fresh baguette, salami, brie cheese, and these delicious goat cheese balls filled with fig jam. We also bought a bottle of wine, but sadly neglected to bring a bottle opener! We also brought assorted macaroons and a giant pistachio meringue for dessert.

Monday’s lunch was pizza at the bottom of Montemarte – complete with a home made chile oil that had such a good flavor and not too much heat.

We’d love to go back and explore even more that Paris has to offer next time!

Next up: Octoberfest in Germany.

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