Summer tomatoes are bountiful and at peak deliciousness right now. Maybe you’ve made about as many Caprese salads as you can take, and your neighbors don’t want anymore “gifts” (they’ve got their own surplus to devour). If you’re looking for a new way to chow down on these summer gems, use them as cups and stuff them.
Tomatoes are like little water balloons, but if you remove the water (and seeds), you’re essentially left with a succulent, edible cup, perfect for stuffing. This method allows you to prepare tomatoes as a main dish or a side dish and easily reduce your tomato harvest. Unlike making a sauce or a chili with your tomato bounty (although that’s a great use, no doubt), this recipe highlights the shape and texture of the flavorful, summer tomato. It’s a relatively quick dish that doesn’t require hours of cooking anything down, and (bonus!), they’re already in personal serving cups.
The greatest thing about these stuffed tomato cups is that you can be as creative as you want with your filling. Turducken them, make them pizza-filled, or hamburger them. Serve them stuffed with a cold salad or slaw. I enjoy a corn, black bean, and red onion salad dressed with a healthy hit of lime juice, salt, garlic powder and cumin. Egg salad or pasta salad would also make an incredible filling.
If you tire of cold snacks, take it a step further and make baked stuffed tomato cups. Besides warming everything up, the baking will evaporate some of the tomato’s water content and concentrate its flavors a bit. (A great solution for out-of-season tomatoes when the craving hits mid-winter.) If you plan on roasting these stuffed tomatoes in the oven, use a cooked filling. Most meats and vegetables will release water of their own as they roast and, as tomatoes are already quite juicy, you don’t want to end up with a little pile of steamed meat in a puddle.
A surefire winner is buffalo chicken and rice stuffed tomatoes (recipe below). You could also cook up crumbled sausage and mushrooms, or spinach, garlic and corn—just mix in a few tablespoons of leftover rice or breadcrumbs to help soak up the roasting tomato’s juices.
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To make stuffed tomato cups, hollow out the tomatoes first. Cut into the tomato on the stem-end and carve a hole that’s big enough to hold a spoonful of filling, about an inch and a half to two inches. You can do this with smaller tomatoes too, just make sure your filling can get crammed in there. Take the tops off of the tomato and discard them (or use them for something else). Using a metal spoon, carefully scoop out the seeds, and any large ribs, into the trash. I do this directly over the trash can to avoid making a watery mess. If you’re making cold stuffed tomatoes, set the tomato cups on a serving dish. If you’re planning on roasting them, set them in an oiled baking dish. Get the tomatoes snug and pressed up against each other. As they cook, they will soften, and they’ll support each other better if they’re close. If you’re using a meat or veggie filling, cook it first and mix it with the spices or seasonings you want. Fill each tomato cup with your hot or cold filling of choice. If roasting, bake at 425°F for 20-30 minutes. The skins will rip and the tops will have some toasted spots. Top with shredded cheese or chopped herbs before serving.
The following recipe is for buffalo chicken and rice stuffed tomatoes. They’re playful, delicious and, I like to think, one of the more healthy iterations of buffalo chicken. The ultra-flavorful combo of charred chicken tossed with buffalo sauce is balanced by the roasted tomato, and the rice adds a bit of bulk, absorption, and stability. Make it vegetarian by subbing in tofu or cauliflower. (Or anything. It all tastes great in buffalo sauce.)
Buffalo Chicken and Rice Stuffed Tomatoes
6 medium tomatoes
6 ounces chicken breast (chopped into ½ inch cubes)
½ teaspoon cooking oil
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons of rice (cooked, leftover is great)
1 tablespoon buffalo sauce (I used Buffalo Wild Wings sauce)
Shredded cheese (optional)
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Lightly oil a small baking dish.
Prepare the tomatoes by hulling them with a small knife. Scoop out and discard the water and seeds with a metal spoon. Set the tomatoes, opening up, in the baking dish. Tomatoes should be close to each other, don’t be shy about squeezing them together a little.
Put a little cooking oil in a skillet and cook the chicken chunks over medium heat with the salt. Cook until lightly charred. Put the chicken in a small bowl and sprinkle on the garlic powder. Add the rice and buffalo sauce and stir it all together.
Fill each tomato cup all the way to the top with the buffalo chicken mixture. Bake at 425°F for 20 minutes, or until the tomato skins have split and the top of the filling looks a little toasted. If using cheese, top each tomato with cheese and broil for 3-5 minutes.
Top with chopped cilantro and serve hot. Leftovers keep, covered, in the fridge for up to 3 days. Reheat in the microwave for 45 seconds to a minute.