stuffed & baked tomatoes with tuna & fennel & bulgurstuffed & baked tomatoes with tuna & fennel & bulgurstuffed & baked tomatoes with tuna & fennel & bulgurstuffed & baked tomatoes with tuna & fennel & bulgurstuffed & baked tomatoes with tuna & fennel & bulgurstuffed & baked tomatoes with tuna & fennel & bulgurstuffed & baked tomatoes with tuna & fennel & bulgurstuffed & baked tomatoes with tuna & fennel & bulgurstuffed & baked tomatoes with tuna & fennel & bulgurstuffed & baked tomatoes with tuna & fennel & bulgurstuffed & baked tomatoes with tuna & fennel & bulgur

I use these heirloom tomatoes like a "spell that I cast", to bring back the almost non-existent Parisian summer that eluded us this year, while the sun continued relentlessly hammering so many other countries ! Needless to say, I bought these beautiful heirloom tomatoes at the outdoor market.

And to top it all off, my father in Montreal has harvested over 100 tomatoes on 8 vines, with probably 100 more to come, while I barely have 6 on two vines, with only 2 that are ripe for the picking ! The seasons we knew seem to have shifted and delocalized.

For this recipe, I kept adjusting the resulting flavors with a pinch of this and a handful of that, until the stuffing tasted just as I wanted. It is also when I realized that the fennel bulb sitting in the refrigerator was begging to be used, as well as crushed fennel seeds, which work so well with tuna and tomatoes. And of course, a little celery and carrot to accompany the onion and garlic is always an excellent base for most dishes.

A little bit of anchovy and black olives also go a long way in adding depth and a certain briny saltiness to the stuffing so don’t forget to add them in and then use whatever fresh herbs you like to brighten up the flavors.

And what about BULGUR ? I have a bag of it but rarely use it, just like I used to do with those magical grains of COUSCOUS that eluded me for so long, but that I do use more often now and that still fascinate me. You can use rice for this stuffing instead but bulgur, that is made of cracked wheat  but it’s a nice change, and let’s not forget that there is nothing more Mediterranean and ancestral in this part of the world than wheat, olives and grapes (for wine-making).

The potatoes are little extras to round off the meal but to also prop up the tomatoes and stop them from collapsing sideways.

It’s an easy meal to prepare, ahead of time if you’re like me and like organizing your weekly meals or start 2 hours before dinner time, (oven-baking time included) if you’re more of a free-spirited and last-minute cook.

Anyways, give it a try while tomatoes are in season and at their best, perhaps not in my Parisian backyard garden, but everywhere else where the sun graced them with its presence and warm smile … :)

stuffed & baked tomatoes with tuna & fennel & bulgur

28.08.2021

6 servings x 350 grams each

ingredients

tomatoes :

  • 2 kg (6 large or 8 medium) heirloom tomatoes (emptied weight with caps = 1,5 kg)
  • 45 ml (3 tbsp) olive oil
  • 5 ml (1 tsp) white wine vinegar
  • 7,5 grams (1 ½ tsp) sea salt

filling :

  • 375 grams (1 ½ cups or 2 cans) oil-packed tuna (325 grams drained weight but save the oil)
  • 150 grams (1 ¼ cups) onion, chopped
  • 125 grams (1 cup) chopped tomato flesh (or crushed tomato) 
  • 75 grams (¾ cup) fennel bulb, finely chopped or grated
  • 25 grams (¼ cup) celery, finely chopped
  • 25 grams (¼ cup) carrot, grated
  • 15 grams (1 ½ tbsp) garlic, crushed
  • 45 ml (3 tbsp) oil from oil-packed tuna
  • 45 ml (3 tbsp) olive oil
  • 10 grams (3-4 whole) anchovies, finely chopped
  • 2,5 grams (3 whole) bay leaves
  • 20 grams (3 tbsp) black or green pitted olives, halved
  • 7,5 grams (½ tbsp) fine sea salt
  • 2 grams (½ tsp) ground pepper
  • 2 grams (½ tsp) fennel seeds, crushed
  • 10 grams (4 tbsp) fresh aromatic herbs (flat-leaf parsley, fennel fronds, rosemary, dill, mint, etc.)
  • 85 grams (6 tbsp) uncooked coarse bulgur (or uncooked rice)
  • 90 ml (6 tbsp) tomato water
  • optional : add 1 gram (¼ tsp) chili seeds (for a spicy version)

extras :

  • 250 grams (6-8) baby potatoes, scrubbed and sliced in half or quartered
  • 45 grams (3 tbsp) olive oil
  • 5 grams (1 tsp) sea salt
  • 2,5 grams (1 tbsp) chopped fresh aromatic herbs
  • 1 gram (¼ tsp) ground black pepper
  • 1 gram (2 whole) bay leaves

instructions

tomato shells :

  • wash the tomatoes, carefully slice off the tops and reserve, empty out the tomato flesh with a spoon, strain the flesh and reserve the extra juices (you can strain out the seeds and discard them) and chop up the flesh and reserve it separately too
  • brush (or spray) the tomato shells and matching tops with some vinegar, sprinkle with salt and then brush with olive oil and set everything aside

filling :

  • strain the tuna, reserve the oil and break up the tuna meat into smaller pieces
  • simmer the grated and chopped vegetables, finely chopped anchovies and crushed garlic with the bay leaves for 5-10 minutes at medium heat in the olive oil and oil from the tuna until softer, then add the pitted and halved olives, tuna, chopped tomato flesh, salt and all the spices and fresh herbs and cook for another 5 minutes, then remove from the heat and let cool down for 5 minutes, then add 6 tbsp of the reserved tomato water and the 6 tbsp of uncooked bulgur, mix and set aside and remove the bay leaves

assembly & baking :

  • slice the potatoes into halves or quarters (depending on how big they are) and toss with the salt, spices, fresh herbs and olive oil and set aside
  • brush the baking dish with some olive oil, spoon the cooled filling into the emptied tomato shells until almost full, place caps on top and place each stuffed tomato inside the baking dish, nudge the potato slices in between the stuffed tomatoes, loosely cover the dish with some baking paper then seal the dish with a larger sheet of aluminum foil (place in the refrigerator if planning to bake later in the day)
  • preheat the oven to 200°C
  • bake for the first 40-45 minutes covered with the baking paper and aluminum foil and then uncover completely and bake for another 40-45 minutes until ready (if it seems dry, you can add a few tbsp of tomato water on the bottom of the dish for the second half of the baking time) and spoon some baking liquid from the bottom of the pan on top of the stuffed tomatoes and potatoes
  • remove from the oven and let cool down for 5-10 minutes before serving, with some country-style bread and a salad.