What is it about the Mediterranean that produces such a fantastic array of dishes? While vacationing in Greece, I got a new appreciation for the humble tomato, where stuffing it with a combination of rice and other mouthwatering ingredients is almost routine, especially in summer. Interestingly, you’ll find a similar stuffed-tomato dish in Provence… sans rice, of course. In the Greek version, you’ll also find lamb topping the pillow of rice at the bottom of these hollowed-out delights most of the time. But when I travel, food is absolutely central to the experience, so when I get back home and feel the lingering glow of my breakaway, I often opt for something a bit lighter, which inspired this almond-creamed-spinach version. There are so many ways to stuff a tomato, I can’t single out any one recipe, but this is certainly my favourite of the moment.
I’m not going to pretend to be vegan, but the plant-based food world is far too exciting to ignore. While I’m not into processed substitutes, I do love exploring the many uses of ingredients like almonds, or how something as simple as a tomato transforms into a sophisticated side dish with just that extra bit of effort. For these spinach-stuffed tomatoes, I made an almond cream instead of falling back on the usual dairy cream. I find it makes the dish just that little bit lighter while adding a rich, nutty flavour to the filling. But don’t forget the “cherry on top” (yes, I just said that). A garnishing of miniature tomatoes, like these Romanitas, adds that satisfying sharpness that brings all the textures and flavours in these beauties together.
125 ml almonds (you can also use blanched almonds)
24 ZZ2 Romanita Tomatoes
125 ml basmati rice
8 ZZ2 Classic Round Tomatoes
1 garlic clove
15 ml lemon juice
15 ml apple cider vinegar
125 ml water
5 ml salt
400 g baby spinach leaves
Heat the oven to 100 °C. Halve the Romanita tomatoes and place them on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Roast them in the oven for 1 hour.
Place the almonds in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Let the almonds soak for 2 hours. Alternatively you can soak the almonds overnight in cold water.
Cook the rice according to the instructions on the packaging.
Heat the oven to 180 °C. Slice open the top of each of the large tomatoes. Scoop the pips and flesh out of each tomato.
Drain the almonds and place them in a food processor. Add the garlic, lemon juice, vinegar, water and salt. Blitz until smooth and creamy.
Rinse the spinach in a colander. Heat a non-stick frying pan and let the spinach wilt in the pan. Add the almond cream to the wilted spinach and let it cook for 1 minute.
Spoon the rice into the hollowed-out tomatoes (about halfway full). Place the tomatoes and the cut-off tops on a baking tray that is lined with baking paper.
Spoon the spinach filling on top and place in the oven. Bake for 12 – 15 minutes.
Arrange the Romanita tomatoes on top of each tomato. Gently remove the calyx (fancy for the stem and leafy bit attached to the fruit) for each tomato top and place in the centre of each tomato. Serve warm.