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Dinner Tonight! | QUICK FIX

Mediterranean Stuffed Tomatoes

May 12, 1999|ANDY BRODER | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Although locally grown tomatoes may be a little firm for slicing and eating plain right now, they can be perfect for stuffing.

There is a universe of stuffed vegetable recipes, but I particularly like these tomatoes stuffed with the combination of lamb, herbs, pine nuts and feta cheese. Serve them with pita bread to scoop up bits of the lamb and tomato.

I sprinkle the inside of each tomato with 1/2 teaspoon of sugar to maintain the shape while baking. That hint of sweetness also gives a little extra depth to the tangy lamb stuffing. You can skip this if you like. Baking the tomatoes in a muffin tin also helps maintain their shape and keeps them from tipping over.

A salad of cucumber and yogurt would be a quick, healthful and traditional side dish. For dessert, try an assortment of dates, figs and dried apricots. You can eat the fruits just as they are, or you might chop them roughly and toss them with a drizzle of Port.

MENU

Stuffed Tomatoes

Pita Bread

Cucumber and Yogurt Salad

Figs, Dates and Dried Apricots

Stuffed Tomatoes

Active Work Time: 15 minutes * Total Preparation Time: 25 minutes

4 firm tomatoes

2 teaspoons sugar, optional

Olive oil

1/2 pound ground lamb

1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint

1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano

1 1/2 tablespoons chopped parsley

2 tablespoons pine nuts

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon coarse salt

1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/4 pound feta cheese, crumbled

Nonstick cooking spray, optional

3 ounces spinach

2 pieces pita bread

* Remove core from each tomato with grapefruit knife. Hollow out inside, being careful not to pierce bottom of tomato. Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon sugar in each tomato. Invert and let drain until ready to stuff.

* Heat 10- or 12-inch skillet over medium-high setting. add 1 1/2 teaspoons oil, then add lamb and stir constantly until cooked through, about 6 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer meat to bowl with slotted spoon.

* Add mint, oregano, parsley, pine nuts, 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice, salt, pepper and half of feta cheese to lamb and mix to combine. Spoon 1/4 of mixture into each tomato, packing it down firmly.

* Put tomatoes in muffin tin either greased with a little olive oil or sprayed with cooking spray to keep them from sticking. Top each tomato with some of reserved feta.

* Bake at 425 degrees until cheese is melted, about 12 minutes.

* Toss spinach with remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice and 1 tablespoon oil. Divide spinach between 2 plates and top each with 2 tomatoes. Serve with pita bread.

2 servings. Each serving: 567 calories; 1,190 mg sodium; 106 mg cholesterol; 34 grams fat; 38 grams carbohydrates; 34 grams protein; 2.10 grams fiber.

Cucumber and Yogurt Salad

Active Work and Total Preparation Time: 10 minutes

1 large cucumber

1/2 cup plain yogurt

1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint

* Peel cucumber and halve lengthwise. Remove seeds, then cut into 1/8-inch-thick slices.

* Combine cucumber slices, yogurt and mint.

2 servings. Each serving: 72 calories; 56 mg sodium; 7 mg cholesterol; 3 grams fat; 9 grams carbohydrates; 4 grams protein; 0.91 gram fiber.

GAME PLAN

30 minutes before: Preheat oven and start heating skillet. Hollow out tomatoes, sprinkle with sugar and invert.

25 minutes before: Begin cooking lamb. Chop oregano, parsley and mint. Juice the lemon. Crumble feta cheese.

19 minutes before: Make stuffing and fill tomatoes.

15 minutes before: Start baking tomatoes. Toss spinach with lemon juice and olive oil and put 1/4 of spinach in center of each dinner plate.

10 minutes before: Peel, seed and slice cucumber. Mix with mint and yogurt.

1 to 2 minutes before: Remove tomatoes from oven and place on top of spinach.

INGREDIENTS

Shopping List

4 tomatoes

1/2 pound ground lamb

1 bunch parsley

1 bunch mint

1 bunch oregano

1/4 pound feta cheese

2 pieces pita bread

3 ounces baby spinach

Staples

Lemons

Olive oil

Pepper

Pine nuts

Nonstick cooking spray

Coarse salt

Sugar

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