This fortnight's Cookbook Challenge theme is love. I had some ideas for recipes I could do that had some significant meaning to my relationship with my husband, but instead I decided to go with a tomato recipe. Why tomatoes? Because they used to be known as "love apples" in Europe!
I didn't realize at the time that I chose my recipe that there's actually a shortage in tomatoes right now, so I ended up having to halve the recipe because I couldn't afford to buy eight tomatoes at $2.69 a pound. Luckily this recipe is really easy to halve, and now I have extra spinach in my freezer that I'll probably put in a quiche.
The recipe is from The Silver Palate Cookbook by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins, published in 1982.
8 ripe red tomatoes, the best you can find
salt for draining tomatoes
3 tbsp olive oil
1 cup finely chopped yellow onions
10 ounces frozen spinach, defrosted, drained, and squeezed dry
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
nutmeg, to taste
1 cup ricotta cheese
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts (see below for toasting instructions)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus additional cheese to top tomatoes
1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley
To toast pine nuts: Spread them in a single layer on a baking sheet; place in a preheated 400F oven for 5 to 7 minutes. Stir once or twice during baking. Remove immediately when well browned and transfer to a cool plate; otherwise the heat from the baking sheet may cause them to burn.
Wash and dry the tomatoes and cut off their tops with a serrated knife. With the handle end of a small spoon, scrape out seeds and partitions, being careful not to pierce the sides of tomatoes. Salt the cavities and set tomatoes upside down on a paper towel to drain for 30 minutes.
Heat the olive oil in a skillet, add the onions and cook, covered, over low heat until tender and lightly colored, about 25 minutes.
Chop the spinach and add it to the skillet. (Yeah right, as if I didn't buy my spinach pre-chopped.) Combine onions and spinach thoroughly, season to taste with salt, pepper, and nutmeg, and cover. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Do not let the mixture scorch.
Beat ricotta and egg yolks together thoroughly in a mixing bowl. Add spinach mixture, pine nuts, 1/4 cup of the Parmesan, and the parsley, and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Gently blot tomato cavities dry with a paper towel and spoon an equal share of the spinach mixture into each one. Top each tomato with an additional sprinkle of Parmesan.
Arrange tomatoes in a shallow baking dish and set in the upper third of a preheated 350F oven. Bake until tops are well browned and filling is hot and bubbly, about 20 minutes. Serve immediately.
Note: I don't know if it was because my baking dish wasn't very shallow or if they simply needed more time, but I didn't think the tomatoes baked well enough in only 20 minutes. I was in a hurry (hence the lack of photos) so I didn't try to bake them any longer, but when I reheated a couple of them the following day in the oven, they came out much better. Just make sure the Parmesan on top is definitely browned, and the skin of the tomatoes is fairly wrinkly, and they should be perfect. Either way, the filling tastes fantastic.