A few weeks ago, my family rented a condo in San Diego for a few days of fun at the beach. Too bad we didn’t check the weather before we left… we got caught in “June gloom.” An ever-present layer of fog hung low over the coastline, casting a chill everywhere we went. Even though the weather was less than ideal, we made the best of things, bundling up in sweatshirts and checking out the local sites and restaurants. We had Father’s Day dinner at the Hotel del Coronado, a beautiful historic hotel on the island of Coronado off the coast of San Diego. My husband’s nickname is “Abba” in our home, so we celebrated Abba’s Day with a delicious seaside meal.
We ordered a few appetizers, including their signature warm goat cheese spread. Goat cheese, pesto, sun dried tomatoes and roasted garlic are baked together into a warm, gooey spread. It’s served with crusty, freshly baked bread for dipping. All I can say is, YUM. I could have made a meal out of the appetizer, it was that good.
When I got home, I started thinking about that warm goat cheese spread. I wanted to recapture the flavor of the appetizer in a vegetarian entree. For a few months, I’ve been thinking about developing a stuffed tomato recipe for summer. I decided to combine the goat cheese and pesto flavors with quinoa and tomato to create a mouthwatering, gluten free vegetarian entree.
I’ve tried many stuffed tomato recipes in the past, but none of them have really knocked my socks off. Many of the stuffing mixtures seem bland and turn out somewhat dry after baking. Also, I hate throwing away the inner seeds and gel of the fruit. It seems a waste, but most recipes don’t call for including the seeds in the stuffing. I solved the problem in my recipe by using a wire mesh sieve and spoon to extract the flavorful juicy liquid from the tomato seeds. I used that liquid to cook the quinoa, along with crushed garlic, which infused it with a wonderful flavor. After that, I mixed the cooked quinoa with fresh basil, pesto and parmesan, which made it moist and gave it a terrific herby, cheesy flavor. I topped each tomato with a dollop of pesto and a tablespoon of goat cheese. The tomatoes baked up to warm, gooey perfection– a perfectly satisfying meal when paired with a side salad.
You can use pesto from a jar, or make it fresh using one of my homemade pesto recipes. Those of you who are gluten free should probably make your pesto from scratch, unless you can find a jarred version that is certified GF. If you’re a vegetarian, make sure your parmesan is made with a vegetarian rennet (if using a jar of pesto, check the ingredients there too). Enjoy!
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- 6 tomatoes (7-8 oz each)
- 1/2 cup quinoa
- 1/2 tsp crushed garlic
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp + 4 1/2 tsp pesto, divided
- 2 tbsp grated parmesan
- 1/2 tbsp minced fresh basil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 6 tbsp (about 4 oz) goat cheese
- Whole fresh basil leaves for garnish (optional)
You will also need
- Wire mesh sieve, medium bowl, small bowl, pastry brush, small saucepan, 9x9 inch baking pan or dish
- Slice the very tops of the tomatoes off (where the stems are) and remove the caps.
- Use a knife to cut around the inside and remove the inner core and seeds from the tomatoes, leaving the walls intact.
- Scoop any remaining seeds out of the tomatoes with a small spoon (I use a metal 1/2 teaspoon). Pour all of the gel, seeds, and pulp into a medium bowl.
- Reserve the cored tomatoes.
- Use a spoon to push the gel, seeds, and pulp through the wire mesh sieve, releasing their juice into another bowl. Press down on the solid ingredients and agitate the mixture to extract as much juice as possible. You will need to do this in batches; when one batch is juiced, scoop the solids into the trash and start on the next batch.
- Pour the tomato juice into a measuring cup. You will need 1 cup of liquid total. If the tomato juice does not make a full cup, top it off with water.
- Pour the juice (and water, if you added any) into a small saucepan.
- Rinse the tomato pulp out of the mesh sieve. Pour the dry quinoa into the sieve and rinse it with cold water for a few minutes. Drain.
- Pour the quinoa into the saucepan with the tomato liquid. Add the crushed garlic to the pan.
- Bring all ingredients to a boil. Reduce heat to a low simmer and cover the pan. Simmer the ingredients for about 20 minutes till all of the liquid is absorbed and the quinoa is tender. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
- While quinoa is cooking, grease the bottom and edges of your cooking pan or dish with olive oil. Lightly brush the outside of each tomato with olive oil and place them into the baking dish.
- When quinoa is finished cooking, remove the lid and fluff it with a fork.
- Use the fork to stir in 2 tbsp of pesto along with the grated parmesan and fresh basil. Season the quinoa with salt and pepper to taste.
- Divide the quinoa evenly between the six tomatoes, stuffing each one loosely with the mixture.
- Top each tomato with 3/4 tsp of pesto...
- then top each portion of pesto with 1 tbsp of goat cheese.
- Place the tomatoes into preheated oven. Let them cook for 20-25 minutes till the tomatoes are tender and the goat cheese starts to brown at the tips.
- Serve hot. Garnish with fresh basil leaves, if desired.