Susanna Hoffman is the author of The Olive and the Caper: Adventures in Greek Cooking published by Workman.
Fresh Tomatoes Stuffed with Ancient Ingredients
Serves 6 to 8
- 6-8 large summer-ripe tomatoes
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 1 large rib celery, with leaves, finely chopped
- 1 large mild fresh chile pepper, such as Anaheim or poblano, seeded and finely chopped
- 1 cup medium or coarse ground bulgur
- - cup dry white wine
- - cup cooked chickpeas
- - tsp salt
- - tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup thickened yogurt (plain yogurt drained in cheesecloth for 45 minutes)
- 6 sprigs fresh cilantro, or 6 fresh mint leaves
- To prepare the tomatoes, Cut off the tops, making a - inch thick slice. Set the caps aside. Using a paring knife, carefully cut the cores and pulp out of each tomato, leaving a - inch thick shell. Discard the core. Finely chop the tomato pulp and place it in a strainer over a bowl to collect the juice. Strain any juices that have accumulated in the shells into the bowl as well. You should have a pile of tomato caps, a pile or tomato shells, a pile of chopped tomato pulp, and the bowl of tomato juice.
- Heat the oil in a medium size saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and stir until it wilts, 5 minutes. Add the celery, chile pepper, and chopped tomato pulp. Stir and continue to cook over medium heat until the vegetables soften, 3 minutes.
- Mix in the bulgur, wine, chickpeas and salt and pepper. Remove the pan from the heat and let the mixture cool, stirring from time to time, for at least 10 minutes, or as long as 45 minutes.
- Stuff each tomato shell with a heaping - cup of the bulgur mixture. Arrange the stuffed tomatoes in a large wide pot or baking dish so that they are tightly packed in one layer. Place a tomato cap on top of each stuffed tomato. Carefully pour all of the strained tomato juice into the pan (but not over the tomatoes.)
- If cooking on the stovetop: Bring the liquid to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer until the tomato shells beginning to soften, 10 minutes. Set the lid ajar, and continue simmering until the bulgur is fluffy and the tomato shells are quite soft, 10 minutes more.
If baking in the oven: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place the baking dish in the oven and bake the tomatoes, uncovered, until the tomato shells are soft and the rims and cap edges have begun to brown, about 30 to 35 minutes.
- Remove the pan from the heat or oven and set aside to cool for 15 minutes before serving.
- When you are ready to serve them, gently lift the tomatoes onto a serving platter. Set the tomatoes onto a serving platter. Set the tomato caps to the side of each tomato. Spoon about 2 tablespoons of yogurt over the top of each tomato, and place a cilantro spring or a mint leaf on top. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Grilled Whole Fish in Grape Leaves
Any whole fish can be wrapped in tangy grape leaves. Set on the grill and broiled, it cooks to aromatic and moist perfection. Mackerel is the choice here, but small red snapper, herring, mullet, striped bass, large sardines, or trout from inland waters would also work beautifully.
- 6 whole mackerel or other small, whole bone-in fish (8 to 10 ounces each), scaled and gutted
- - cup fresh lemon juice
- 24 to 30 grape leaves
- olive oil
- lemon wedges for garlic
- Remove the heads from the fish or leave them on, as you prefer. Liberally salt the fish inside and out and rub them inside and out with the lemon juice. Gently squeeze the excess liquid out of the grape leaves without wringing them dry. Wrap enough grape leaves around each fish to enclose it completely, heat to tail. Place the wrapped fish on a platter, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes or up to several hours.
- When you are ready to cook the fish, heat a grill to medium. Lightly coat the grape leaf wrapping with oil.
- Place the fish on the grill and cook until the leaves are lightly charred all around and the fish flakes easily when pierced with a fork, 8 to 12 minutes. Serve right away, garnished with the lemon wedges.
Green Figs Poached in Mavrodaphne with Shaved Manouri Cheese
Serves 10 to 12
- 1 bottle Mavrodaphne or other sweet wine
- 2 cups sugar
- - cup fresh lemon juice
- 3 bay leaves
- 2 pounds ripe but firm green figs
- 6 ozs Manoui cheese (Ricotta Salata is a good substitute)
- Combine the wine, sugar, lemon juice, and bay leaves in a large nonreactive pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the figs, reduce the heat and simmer briskly until they puff out and are very soft, 15 minutes.
- Using a slotted spoon, transfer the figs to a large bowl. Discard the bay leaves. Continue simmering the liquid until it reaches the soft thread stage, 235 degrees on a candy thermometer, 20 minutes. Then stir the syrup into the figs. Allow to cool, then cover and chill thoroughly.
- Spoon a few figs and some liquid into each dessert bowl. Serve with a slice of cheese to the side of each bowl.
Peppe Mielle is the owner of Antica Pizzeria, 13455 Maxella Ave Marina del Rey; (310) 577-8182.