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Perfect Greek Stuffed Tomatoes

Dolma, or dolmades, is the Greek term used for a stuffed vegetable. One summer, I spent nearly two months sailing through the Greek Islands and coast of Turkey in search of great foods and the perfect stuffed tomatoes. Wild fennel grew alongside the roads perfuming the air and as I hiked I could imagine the intense flavor of the tomatoes bursting in my mouth. I couldn’t find exactly was I was looking for in any of the restaurants, every dish was surprisingly bland to me. So, when I returned to my studio I created this version of the perfect Greek stuffed tomatoes. Be sure to use tomatoes at their peak ripeness as the flavor is incomparable otherwise. If you are lucky enough to find fennel pollen please substitute it for the fennel seeds, the aroma is intoxicating. If you find you have extra stuffing save it and make a flavorful rice dish with sauteed ground lamb. Makes 12 stuffed tomatoes

Ingredients
  

  • 12 medium tomatoes; ripe but firm
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 3 cups onion; chopped
  • 1 each fennel bulb; finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds; crushed
  • 1 cup arborio rice or other short-grain rice
  • 1 cup fresh Italian parsley; chopped
  • 1 cup fresh dill; chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh mint; chopped
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon Salt; plus more for taste
  • to taste freshly ground black pepper

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 375°F
  • Cut off the top 1/2-inch of each tomato, reserve in a 9 x 13 baking dish. Carefully scoop out flesh, chop and reserve. You should have at least 2 cups. Freeze any remaining pulp for another recipe.
  • In a large skillet over medium heat, add 2/3 of the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the onions and fennel and saute for 5 minutes, or until soft.
  • Add the fennel seeds and rice and saute for 3 minutes, stirring constantly.
  • Add tomato pulp, reduce heat to low and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Stir in the herbs and cook for 2 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper.
  • Stuff tomatoes with rice mixture, leaving a little room at the top for the rice to expand. Top with the tomato lids. Drizzle the remaining olive oil over the tomatoes and season again with salt and pepper.
  • Bake for 1 hour or until the rice is tender. Turn off the oven and let stand in the oven for 10 minutes, then let cool to room temperature.
  • Place a tomato on a serving plate and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.
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