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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Tomatoes Stuffed with Rice - Gutsy Cooks Club

My children used to beg for toys that were advertised on TV. "But, Mom, I really want it. It's so much fun! Look how much fun the kids on TV are having"!" "No," I said. "They're not having fun. They're actors. They're pretending to have fun."
That's how I feel when I look at the ads for Campbell's Cream of Mushroom Soup, which show the entire family lit up with joy when Mom brings the casserole made with C of M soup to the table. They're actors. Soup casseroles don't really make them happy.
My point? Yes, there is a point here. It's no struggle to find easy recipes that don't taste very good. And it's not difficult to find delicious food in three-page, multi-ingredient recipes.
But good and easy? That's not a combination that you find every day.

This recipe, from Saveur magazine, is both. Monica discovered this gem for the Gutsy Cooks' rice month, for which she sussed out every version of rice known to mankind. Naturally, I chose the easiest one. (In my defense, however, so did she). First, you scoop the tomato pulp out of however many tomatoes you want to bake, and pulse it a few times in the food processor.

Then you mix in all the other ingredients: rice, fresh basil, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper. You could add other things too, but why bother? The tomato/basil/olive oil/garlic flavor combo is a classic one for a reason--it tastes so good.

Then you spoon this soupy mixture into the hollowed-out tomatoes. I'll admit there's a little leap of faith involved here. Will the rice really cook? Will this rather unappetizing glop turn into food? Yes and yes.

You don't really have to put the little severed tomato ends on top of the tomatoes stuffed with glop, but you should. It's very little extra trouble and they end up looking awfully cute.

Then you walk away for 50 minutes and do something more interesting. The baking time actually gives you enough time to catch up on an episode of Dexter, if you're so inclined. Or you could do something else not involving lovable serial killers.

If you happen to have a bazillion skewers of chicken satay left over from your husband's birthday party, you'll find that the stuffed tomatoes make an excellent side dish. Rounded out with a simple salad, it's a meal that will make you happy.

Jim: I'll give these a solid 9. The tomatoes taste really fresh, and the rice is so much better than plain rice.
Marie: I think that 9 is about right--maybe even a 9 1/2. It's a perfect way to use end-of-the-summer tomatoes. And it does make you want to eat your rice.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Olive-Olive Cornish Game Hens - French Fridays with Dorie

I think it took me longer to wander around the grocery store aisles looking for the game hens than it took me to cook them. The only reason that this isn't a spur-of-the-moment recipe is that I haven't yet found a place where I can buy game hens that aren't frozen.

But once they're thawed, it takes only a few minutes to whack them up, and just a few more to roast them.

Whacking them up is more technically known as spatchcocking. First, cut out the backbone (I used some kitchen shears). Then flatten the rest of the bird.

Then you loosen the skin from the chicken and insert some tapenade. It would have been better with homemade, but that would have added a little time, and I was trying to turn this into a quick weeknight dinner. The first time I tried the old seasoning-under-the-skin trick, I was surprised at how easy it was. The skin is actually quite cooperative--it loosens easily and doesn't usually tear. I've used fresh herb pastes under chicken skins, but the tapenade/game hen combo is new to me.

Then you just douse them in olive oil, squeeze lemon juice over them, and give a few good shakes of salt and pepper. Hopefully you've remembered to preheat the oven to 500 (and remove anything that you might have stored in your oven).

Just 25 minutes in the hot oven gives you crispy brown-skinned chicken and a few spoons of flavorful drippings.

Some cubes of sweet potatoes cooked at the same temperature and for the same time as the game hens (you'll notice that a few pieces got burned--I shouldn't have put them in the oven 5 minutes early). Al dente sugar peas added color and texture.

This was a delightful dinner. There are no official bonne idees here, but I think any herb paste or butter would work well. And I also think that leftovers would make a lovely lunch with a salad of baby greens. (In fact, I'm looking forward to that for tomorrow's lunch).