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Tomatoes: Red, Ripe and Goaty

September 05, 1996|BETTY ROSBOTTOM

With tomatoes in their prime, now is the time to bake them with a stuffing of toasted bread crumbs, goat cheese and pesto. The deep red tomato halves, mounded with the golden stuffing and garnished with fresh basil leaves, make a colorful and delicious garnish to meat, fish or poultry. They go especially well with lamb and steak.

Using store-bought pesto, I make the dish in less than half an hour. The tomatoes can be prepared several hours in advance and need to be baked for only 10 minutes before serving.

BAKED TOMATOES STUFFED WITH PESTO AND GOAT CHEESE

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cups fresh bread crumbs, loosely packed, made from French bread or good-quality white bread

1/2 cup soft, creamy goat cheese (3 1/2 to 4 ounces)

1/4 cup pesto plus 1 extra tablespoon if needed

4 large ripe tomatoes (7 to 8 ounces each)

Salt, pepper

Nonstick cooking spray

Fresh basil sprigs

Heat oil in large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add bread crumbs and cook, stirring constantly, until crumbs are rich golden brown. Remove from heat and transfer crumbs to mixing bowl. Add goat cheese and 1/4 cup pesto and mix well to blend. If mixture seems too dry, add remaining 1 tablespoon pesto. Set aside.

Cut out stems from tomatoes. Then cut tomatoes in half horizontally and with teaspoon scoop out seeds and membranes so shells are clean. Season cavities with salt and pepper to taste and set upside down to drain on paper towels 5 to 10 minutes.

Line baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Divide filling evenly and mound in tomato halves. Arrange tomatoes on baking sheet. (Tomatoes can be prepared several hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature 30 minutes before baking.)

Bake tomatoes at 400 degrees until hot, about 10 minutes. Watch carefully so tomatoes do not overcook and become mushy. Arrange tomatoes on serving plate. Garnish each with 1 basil sprig.

Makes 8 servings.

Each serving contains about:

198 calories; 301 mg sodium; 8 mg cholesterol; 10 grams fat; 22 grams carbohydrates; 7 grams protein; 0.47 gram fiber.

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