Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Anchovy-stuffed Heirloom Tomatoes

The recipe upon which this delight is based preceded mass public awareness (in the United States, at least) regarding heirloom tomatoes, the kind of marinated white anchovies I purchase at Mastellone's on Harford Road), as well as potato bread. Anchovy-stuffed tomatoes have been a summer staple at the Slagle table every summer for well over thirty years. Recently, we've elevated the experience to a whole new level.

Love them aplenty, but beware those big heirlooms as well as large beefsteaks when harvested in peak season and fully ripe. They can fall apart in the process of being temporarily hollowed out, stuffed, refilled, and baked. Surely firmer and more spherical tomatoes were what the New York Times intended for the "anchovy-stuffed baked tomatoes" recipe it published in the 1950's. In place of the six "large" tomatoes, we substituted two humoungous heirlooms while leaving the other ingredient quantities constant. We've also specified marinated white anchovies for "anchovies" that 50 years ago, even the Times probably considered to be the salty filets packed into small cans with olive oil that you get at the supermarket. Likewise, we chose potato bread in place of those "slices (of)crumbled bread" in the Times' recipe.

Simply having that wonderful heirloom tomato flesh as the stuffing's principal ingredient was more than enough in itself to much enhance an already great recipe. As for the very real possiblilty of huge ripe heirloom tomatoes falling apart along the way, I'm quite confident that encasing them in aluminum foil ---to be removed prior to serving---would do the trick. Unfortunately, I neglected to so wrap the other heirloom, much distracted by the pleasure and opportunity of using for the first time a new Mario Batali casserole dish (actually a miniature Dutch oven). For that matter, I'll bet Mario would love what we put in it.

Here's the recipe:


2 large heirloom tomatoes

2 slices crumbled potato bread, crusts removed

1 7-ounce can of tuna, drained and flaked

6 filets white anchovies marinated in vinegar

1 small clove garlic, finely minced

1/2 teaspoon dried basil

salt to taste

3 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese

3 tablespoons melted butter

Preheat oven to 375 F. Cut the tops from the tomatoes and discard. Scoop out the pulp and mince it. To the tomato pulp, add the bread, tuna, anchovies, garlic, and basil. Mix well. Salt the tomato cups lightly (you may want to encase them in aluminum foil if concerned they could fall apart) andfill them with the mixture. Toss the cheese in the butter until well mixed and sprinkle over the top. If concerned the tomatoes could fall apart, encase them in aluminum foil before placing in an oiled baking dish or casserole to bake for about 20 minutes.