Two Vegetables for Summer

Stuffed tomatoes. Photo by fahrwasser

Stuffed tomatoes. Photo by fahrwasser

Stuffed tomatoes are the quintessential summer dish, their sweetness enhanced by a turn in the oven. They are a beautiful contorno at dinner or a lovely lunch served with a crisp white wine and green salad. A filling of fleshy green Bella di Cerignola olives from Puglia, sweet pine nuts, and herbs, gives these tomatoes a depth of flavor that makes them truly unique.  Topped with creamy Gorgonzola dolce from Lombardy they are a glorious vehicle for a cook’s tour of Italy.

Stuffed Mushrooms are a classic antipasto.  Who doesn’t love those little buttons of flavor?  I’ve upped the ante, giving them their own place at the table by using big meaty Portobello mushrooms.  With a tasty herb flecked filling blanketed with bubbling Taleggio cheese, you’ll need a knife and fork for these mushrooms.  Taleggio, a pasteurized cow’s milk cheese from Lombardy, melts beautifully, its salty bite bubbling over onto the baking dish, its sumptuous texture and nutty taste a perfect complement for the earthy mushrooms.
Although any fine extra virgin olive oil works well in both of these recipes, I recommend you use a fruity Tuscan oil, one with medium heat and a just a bit of bitterness.  As good as these are, a fine oil makes them even better.
Stuffed Tomatoes
serves 4 as a starter
4 medium tomatoes
½  cup minced onion
2 cloves of garlic, minced
½ teaspoon dried oregano
¼  teaspoon dried thyme
¼ cup Panko bread crumbs
¼ cup reserved tomato
8 green Bella di Cerignola olives, cut in 1/4inch dice
2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
2 tablespoons chopped basil, plus more for garnish (either whole or torn leaves)
¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon pine nuts, divided
About 3 oz. Gorgonzola dolce
Kosher salt and pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Lightly oil a baking dish.  Line a sheet pan with paper towels.
Using a sharp knife, slice tops off of the tomatoes.  Chop the tops into ¼ inch dice, reserving ¼ cup.  Scoop out and discard the inside of the tomatoes, being careful not to pierce the sides.  Place tomatoes on the sheet pan, and lightly sprinkle the interior with kosher salt.  Turn the tomatoes upside down on the paper towels to drain.
Pour 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil into a small saute pan, and heat over a medium-low flame.  Add minced onion and garlic and saute until translucent, about 6 to 7 minutes, stirring often.  Add oregano, thyme, and ½  teaspoon kosher salt and saute 1 minute more. 
Transfer to a medium bowl.  Add 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, bread crumbs, reserved tomato, olives, chopped parsley and basil, ¼ cup pine nuts, and ¼ teaspoon black pepper.  Combine and check seasoning.
Spoon filling into tomatoes, mounding slightly.  Transfer to prepared baking dish, and place on middle rack of the preheated oven.  Roast, uncovered, about 35 minutes until softened.  Just before the tomatoes are done, remove the baking dish from the oven and top each tomato with a few pieces of Gorgonzola.  Return them to the oven and continue roasting until the Gorgonzola has just begun to melt, but still retains its chunky shape, about 1 to 2 minutes.
Remove the tomatoes from the oven and drizzle 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil over the tomatoes.  Scatter the remaining 2 tablespoons of pine nuts over the tomatoes, add a bit of basil, and serve immediately.
Stuffed Mushrooms. Photo by fotokris44Stuffed Mushrooms. Photo by fotokris44

Stuffed Mushrooms. Photo by fotokris44

When checking the filling for seasoning, just before stuffing the mushrooms, keep in mind that the Taleggio will add a good deal of saltiness, so you may not have to add any additional salt.  If you find that you have more mushrooms than filling, just roast the empty mushrooms along with the filled ones.  They are delicious unadorned.
8 to 12 Portobello mushrooms, depending on size
2 shallots, minced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
½ cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
½ cup fresh bread crumbs
2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
¼ cup chopped basil
Kosher salt and pepper
3-4 oz. Taleggio
Extra virgin olive oil
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F., and line a baking sheet with foil.  Clean mushrooms with a damp towel, being sure to remove any dirt or debris.  Remove and discard stalks.  Rub each mushroom with a bit of olive oil.  Place cut side down on the baking sheet and roast 15 minutes, until softened slightly.  Meanwhile, saute shallots, garlic and ¼ teaspoon salt in 1 tablespoon olive oil, stirring frequently, until softened and translucent.  Transfer to a medium bowl to cool slightly.  Add Parmigiano, bread crumbs, parsley, basil, 2 tablespoons olive oil and ¼ teaspoon of black pepper.  Combine well.
Decrease oven temperature to 350 degrees F.  Mound filling mixture gently into mushrooms and place in a lightly oiled baking dish or on a baking sheet lined with parchment.  Drizzle 1 tablespoon of oil over the mushrooms.  Roast on middle rack of oven until softened slightly, about 15-18 minutes.  Remove from oven and top with slices of Taleggio.  Return to oven until cheese is melting and bubbly.  Serve at once.
Bella di Cerignola olives are available from
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