merguez

Revisiting Stuffed Tomatoes, A Summer Favorite

by Anne Maxfield on September 10, 2015

Accidental Locavore Heirloom TomatoesEven though my friend Ivan will be rolling his eyes about another tomato recipe–poor guy he’s in Texas (need I say more?), the Accidental Locavore is working through piles of tomatoes, trying to take advantage of all their goodness!  There is very little that can beat a fresh tomato, perfectly ripe and smelling like the essence of summer.

While most of the time, I’m content to just cut them up and toss into a salad, or mix with some local mozzarella and basil from the garden, occasionally the Locavore yearns for an old French favorite, stuffed tomatoes. Now, I’m not talking about breadcrumb stuffed tomatoes, or a tomato gratin, but what I fell in love with in Paris so many years ago, the sausage stuffed ones you find in every boulangerie in the summer.

Accidental Locavore StuffingIt’s one of the key recipes I look for when perusing French cookbooks, rarely found. Even the Internet, that seemingly inexhaustible source of information, has been less than forthcoming. That’s actually not true, it’s just that none of them are the “right” recipe.

When the Accidental Locavore was up in Maine, last month, my mother had an old French cookbook from the sixties and I copied that recipe for stuffed tomatoes, because it had a simplicity that seemed more authentic than most. I had made merguez, with homemade green harissa and thought that might be an interesting (but not traditional) sausage to use. Here’s the recipe for two people:

  • 4 firm tomatoes (I used two really large German Stripe)
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tablespoon butter (olive oil is fine too), plus more for the tops of the tomatoes
  • ½pound sausage, generally pork (if you’re using links, remove from casing and crumble the meat)
  • ½ cup breadcrumbs,  plus more for sprinkling on top
  • 2 tablespoons juice from the tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons parsley

Accidental Locavore Tomatoes StuffedSlice off and reserve the tops of 4 firm tomatoes. Scoop out the centers of the tomatoes and reserve them, discard the seeds. Warm the butter in a medium sauté pan, add the onion and garlic and cook over medium heat until soft (but not browned), about 5 minutes. Mix together the sausage meat, bread crumbs moistened with the juice from the tomatoes, the sautéed onion and garlic, the tomato centers and parsley. Stuff the tomatoes with the mixture, sprinkle them with fine breadcrumbs, dot each with a small piece of butter and replace the caps. Bake in a lightly oiled baking sheet at 300 degrees for 35 minutes. Serve and enjoy!

My verdict: The tomatoes tasted good and we ate all of them, however they’re not quite French enough. Because I tried to get a finer grind on the merguez, there wasn’t a noticeable textural difference between the sausage and the breadcrumbs. Next time, I’m going to use a good pork sausage, maybe even a breakfast sausage. Panko breadcrumbs might be an interesting substitute for the standard ones, or I’ll just pull out the food processor and make my own. Unless my husband decides he’s had enough stuffed vegetables, there’s still plenty of time left to perfect this. Stay tuned!

Accidental Locavore Merguez Stuffed TomatoesUpdate: This batch was with some homemade (regular) merguez and while they’re fine and spicy, it’s not the traditional way I remember. It really needs some good pork sausage, even a breakfast style would be ok as long as it wasn’t too sweet. I’m also thinking that maybe some toasted pine nuts would give a bit of a crunch, which would be nice. Because you don’t need to have super-ripe tomatoes, and they’re baked, you could get away with them even in the winter.

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David Lebovitz at DeGustibus

by Anne Maxfield on June 22, 2015

Accidental Locavore D LebovitzAs you know, the Accidental Locavore is a big fan of David Lebovitz’s newish book, My Paris Kitchen. When DeGustibus announced that he was going to be doing a cooking demo, I couldn’t wait to sign up! As it turns out, he rarely does demos since he feels he’s not so good at cooking and instructing (but he would be wrong).

We started out with an amuse bouche of tapenade made from black olives and figs and served with champagne to get us in a celebratory mood. The figs were a nice addition to the tapenade, but what David said (and I haven’t tried yet) was that rinsing the capers and squeezing them dry “will change your life.” Stayed tuned!

Accidental Locavore Merguez MeatballsThese were followed by merguez meatballs with a harissa mayo. How these escaped me in the book, I have no idea! Nicely browned, the meatballs were just a bit spicy and the mayo added a nice little kick. Definitely have to give these a try and the mayo is a snap to make—just add a tablespoon or so of harissa to about ¾ cup of mayo. Bet it’s great on a lamb burger!

Accidental Locavore Parisian GnocchiProbably my favorite, and definitely the most indulgent, were the Parisian gnocchi with béchamel. Think savory profiteroles or cream puffs with cheese sauce and you’re most of the way there. It started with a pâté à choux, (it’s what’s used for cream puffs, éclairs etc.) formed into balls and poached until partially cooked. Then David whipped up a Mornay sauce, put the gnocchi in a gratin pan, covered that with sauce and sprinkled a healthy topping of Parmesan and Emmenthal and baked it. Think of it as the French version of mac & cheese, but better, so much better!!

Accidental Locavore Chicken and BeansNot that we needed anything else, but his main course was the chicken with mustard which I’ve made (and it’s great!). Your choice of mustard really counts here, so splurge and get some real Dijon. And if you think that green beans are generally ho-hum, you haven’t tried his—steamed and drenched in snail butter, in other words, lots of butter and garlic!

Accidental Locavore Chocolate Caramel MousseFor dessert, a chocolate, salted-caramel mousse. Since David is known as a pastry chef, it should have been the highlight of the evening, but it wasn’t my favorite thing. The texture was a little too slick and pudding-like for my taste, since I’ve never been a fan of toothless desserts.

If any of these sounds like something you’d like to try, get the book. It’s one of the few that’s crossed my desk that I’ve used over and over.

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Accidental Locavore Squash Blossoms

Even skipping a week from the Accidental Locavore’s farm box doesn’t mean skipping out of the kitchen. Actually, I’ve been pretty busy putting all this great stuff to good use. So you can get a lot of the recipes, they’re all on the site and linked below.

A special treat from the last box were squash blossoms. If you’re not familiar with them, they’re the pretty orange flowers that produce zucchini and squash. Not only are they edible, they taste great! Squash blossoms are very delicate so you need to use them right away. I wanted to stuff mine, since that’s probably my favorite way to eat them. It’s a little fussy but not difficult, you just have to be careful. These were delicious and it was interesting how light the seltzer made the batter. Click here for the recipe. Accidental Locavore Fried Zucchini Blossoms

A friend of mine saw a recipe for cheesecake in the NY Times and sent a plea around, looking for someone to make it. Since we were invited to a party in the Poconos the Locavore thought it would be a good excuse to dig out the springform pan and use up the crème fraiche from our recent crème fraiche showdown (results coming soon). The cheesecake was topped with some sour cherries from the Greenmarket which for the first time, I managed to pit without making a serious mess. Because it’s my favorite part of any cheesecake, I added a graham cracker crust. It was delicious, nice and light for the summer. Usually I like my cheesecake plain, but this worked well with the sour cherries (giving you a one-month window of opportunity to make it). Here’s that recipe.Accidental Locavore Cheesecake

I don’t know if you cook like this, but for the Accidental Locavore, one thing, whether it’s food, or a piece of equipment, usually leads to another. Because I was afraid my Cuisinart had bitten the dust while emulsifying liverwurst, I decided to try a quick green harissa with lovely local spinach and cilantro, to see if my faithful Cusinart from college was still with us. Luckily, all it seemed to need was a rest from all that sausage glop and it breezed through the harissa with ease. Harissa, if you’re not familiar with it, is a condiment from North Africa, usually red and very spicy. It adds a punch to couscous and is an essential part of merguez.Accidental Locavore Green Harissa

Once the harissa was done, was more merguez far behind? Since all the gear was out to make the liverwurst and cheesecake (and yes, I do realize what a disgusting combination that sounds like), it was easy enough to pull together a batch of merguez. This recipe from Mrs. Wheelbarrow of Charcutepalooza fame, is delicious. I just substituted my green harissa for the traditional red. Delicious, but what’s not to like about lamb sausage with cilantro and spinach?

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Accidental Locavore Recipe for Green Harissa

by Anne Maxfield on July 22, 2011

Accidental Locavore Green HarissaThe Accidental Locavore loves harissa, a spicy North African condiment, usually red, so when I saw this recipe in bon appétit for a green version, I had to try it. I used it to make merguez, but if you’re not into making sausage, use it for lamb or chicken. It would probably work really well on zucchini too. Makes ½ cup and adapted from bon appétit:

  • 1 cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped ( I probably used 1 ½ cups because I love cilantro)
  • 1 cup spinach, roughly chopped
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 jalapeno or serrano chile, seeded
  • ¼ teaspoon ground coriander
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • Kosher salt to taste

Combine all ingredients except salt in a food processor or blender and process until smooth. Add salt to taste and check seasonings for taste. If it’s too spicy, add more spinach, cilantro and a little more olive oil. Serve and enjoy.

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