Thursday, March 24, 2011

Tapas Time--Artichoke-stuffed Tomatoes

eggplant deliciousness on bread topped with a quail egg and chive

I'm always thrilled when someone wants to go out for tapas.  I love tapas.  The various small bites of flavor are captivating and I love the entire experience.  I love having a huge variety and getting just a bite of everything.  I love many different tastes at one sitting.  Tapas are an excuse to have a bunch of really great snacks and call it a meal.  The process, the slow-down, the savoring of each bite, and the wine thrill me to no end.  Apparently tapas began in Andalusia  as something to place over your drink to keep the bugs out. There was always one bite served with every drink and the tradition evolved into a cultural experience.  Using the freshest, most seasonal stuff around at the moment, tapas can be anything prepared simply and seasoned properly.  Plating and presentation are important and go along with the slow eating, appreciation of each bite, and the savoring of the experience.

Fun for couples or groups of any size, tapas-style dining changes the pace of things and gets us to sit back and enjoy.  The Spanish dining philosophy of 'Eat When You Drink, Drink When You Eat' isn't lost on me.  I love following this rule and do it whenever possible or practical. 

Last weekend, when good friends were visiting from D.C. and we were needing a good spot to catch up, we did just that.

fresh anchovies, briny, sweet, steamed to perfection, and dressed with lemon

On a Friday night in Greenwich Village, we were expecting a long wait when we saw the jam-packed tapas bar over-flowing with diners.  As luck would have it, our 30-minute wait became about 10 minutes and we were seated at a tall 3-top in the front with a perfect view of the Bleecker St. bustle. 

the remains of my seared tuna and a cheese stick to beat all cheese sticks. . .artisanal Spanish cheese, breaded and fried
My friend, another Katie, wisely ordered everything from the specials board first.  We then  revisited the menu for a few last nibbles.  Kurt ordered the wine, the details of which I have lost, but it was fantastic, too.  Maybe a tempranillo?  Nonetheless, everything was delicious and we left happy, but not too stuffed, which is another perk of having all small bites.

Here is a recipe that I made up inspired by a traditional tapas recipe of stuffed tomatoes.  The old version is filled with breadcrumbs and aioli and are concasse'd (blanched to remove skin).  I like the skin and wanted to add the artichokes in as flavor perk. I kept going by adding almond meal and marcona almonds on top until Voila!  Artichoke-stuffed Tomatoes...

Artichoke-stuffed Tomatoes

1 pkg Campari tomatoes (or about 8-10 golf ball-sized tomatoes), cherry tomatoes could be a substitute
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 T extra-virgin Spanish olive oil
1/4 cup minced onion
3 artichokes, carved down to the hearts and squirted with lemon juice and diced (or 3 canned or frozen artichoke hearts, diced)
1 T dry white wine
1/3 cup whole grain bread crumbs
3 T almond meal or finely chopped almonds
3 T mayonnasie or Veganaise, whatever your preference
2 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 T freshly minced parsley
1/2 t Spanish paprika (sweet or hot)
8-10 Marcona almonds (or 8-10 regular almonds, soaked for a minutes in olive oil and a bit of sea salt)

Wash, dry, and prepare your tomatoes, by slicing off just the tops and setting them aside.  Gently scoop out seeds and pulp from the tomatoes with a small melon baller or a grapefruit spoon.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Oil a baking dish and arrange tomatoes upright in dish.  Lightly salt and pepper them and set aside.

In a saute pan, heat oil and cook onion for 2 minutes on medium.  Add garlic, stir one minutes, then add diced artichoke hearts and wine.  Cook on medium for 10-12 minutes, if using canned or about 20 minutes, if using fresh. When tender and fragrant, turn the heat up a little bit and add breadcrumbs and almond meal.  Season with salt and pepper. Let cool for a few minutes, then add mayo/Veganaise, lemon juice, and parsley.  Taste and adjust seasonings.

Carefully  fill tomatoes using a small spoon and mound filling a little over the top, if possible.  Top each with a light dusting of paprika and sink an almond into the top. 

Bake, uncovered, for about 25 minutes, or until browned and bubbly.  Beware to remove them if the almond begins to burn or if the tomatoes begin to collapse.

Let cool for 5 minutes and serve!

No comments: