The Cuchara de San Telmo tapas bar in San Sebastián is amazing. Its young chef/owners Iñaki Gulin and Alex Montiel have both worked at El Bulli, Ferran Adrià’s outrageously inventive restaurant. But instead of applying their credentials and skill to someplace haute, they decided to open a simple neighborhood haunt serving restaurant food—at bar prices.Nothing there costs more than a few dollars but ah, the food: caramelized foie gras ravioli, shot glasses of ethereal chilled crab soup topped with tomato jam, amazing boned pork ribs glazed with balsamic vinegar. Here is one of Iñaki and Alex’s simpler and most popular dishes, perfectly ripe skinned tomatoes filled with tuna mousse and presented in a bright-green puddle of parsley vinaigrette, with drizzles of aged balsamic vinegar. The chefs use ventresca, the prized tuna belly, for the filling, but good imported canned tuna will do just fine. The dish is as pretty as it is delicious, especially when served on an elegant white plate to show off the colors.
- Yield: 8 Servings as a Tapa, 4 as a Light Luncheon Dish
- 8 smallish vine-ripened tomatoes (about 2 1/4 pounds total; do not use beefsteak or plum tomatoes)
- Coarse salt (kosher or sea)
- ¼ cup best-quality red wine vinegar, plus more for sprinkling over the tomatoes
- 12 ounces imported solid oil-packed tuna, or 2 cans (each 6 ounces) Bumble Bee tonno in olive oil, drained and flaked into chunks
- 0.33 cup light olive oil for the filling, plus ½ cup for the vinaigrette
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 packed cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, plus 8 whole parsley leaves for garnish
- 1 pinch of sugar, or more to taste
- 2 tablespoons syrupy aged balsamic vinegar, or 1⁄3 cup thin balsamic vinegar reduced over medium-high heat to 2 tablespoons
- Using a vegetable peeler, peel the tomatoes. Slice the tops off and trim the bottoms so that the tomatoes will stand upright on a plate. Using a grapefruit spoon or a small coring knife, scoop out the pulp from the tomatoes, leaving about ⅛ inch of the shell and reserving the pulp. Arrange the tomatoes on a pretty white serving plate and sprinkle salt and a little red wine vinegar on the insides.
- Finely chop the pulp from 4 of the tomatoes, setting aside the remaining tomato pulp for another use. Place the chopped pulp in a small sieve to drain off excess moisture.
- Place the tuna in a food processor and pulse until a medium-fine puree forms. Scrape the tuna into a bowl and beat in ⅓ cup of the olive oil a little at a time. Stir in the drained chopped tomato pulp and season the filling with salt and pepper to taste. Scoop the filling into the tomatoes.
- Place the parsley, the remaining ½ cup olive oil, ¼ cup red wine vinegar, and 2 tablespoons water in a blender and puree until very smooth. Season the parsley vinaigrette with salt, pepper, and sugar to taste and pour it around but not on the tomatoes. Drizzle the balsamic vinegar over the vinaigrette and serve.