Stuffed vegetables played a major role in my own childhood in the eighties. My grandparents were vegetarians, and stuffed vegetables had the ability to take the spotlight like a large piece of meat. No turkey for Thanksgiving? Stuff a butternut squash with rice and cranberries, and it’s just as grand. Birthday dinner in August? Nothing says “special” like a gargantuan zucchini, left in the garden until it’s big enough to hold an entire batch of corn bread and who knows what else. Honestly, I’ve had enough stuffed vegetables to last me a lifetime. I’m over it. Except, that is, when it comes to tomatoes. There’s something about a stuffed tomato that makes me feel like a lady who lunches—it makes me sit up straighter and crave white wine with lunch. It’s an exquisitely civilized dish and really good to boot. Tomatoes are traditionally stuffed with bread crumbs or rice, but I love them with millet. It’s an underappreciated grain, quick cooking and nutty, and it stays just firm enough to give these tomatoes a structure.
You can make these with any variety or color of tomato, but it works best with nice round tomatoes. Try, if you can, to choose tomatoes of a similar size. Don’t try to stuff huge, splitting heirlooms—save those for your tomato sandwich. These are wonderful cold on the second day, especially with a squeeze of lemon or a drizzle of vinaigrette.
- Yield: 6 Servings
- 3 pounds tomatoes (about 6 medium)
- Kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon finely minced garlic (1 clove)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ cup packed fresh basil leaves, torn or cut into ribbons
- ½ cup packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, roughly chopped
- 10.33 cups millet
- ¾ cup grated Parmesan, pecorino, or Romano cheese
- Carefully core each tomato with a paring knife, cutting it a bit wider than the core to create a round opening big enough to stuff, but small enough so the tomato doesn’t entirely come apart. Use a spoon to scoop the pulp from each tomato, transferring and reserving it in a large measuring cup as you go. Scoop carefully so as to maintain the walls of each tomato. Set the tomatoes upright in a roasting pan or shallow Dutch oven that holds all the tomatoes snugly, propping them up against each other, and sprinkle the inside of each tomato with salt.
- Preheat the oven to 375°F.
- You should have 3 cups of tomato guts. If you’re short of 3 cups, top it off with a bit of water. Pour this into a medium saucepan, using your hands to crush any large chunks of tomato. Add the garlic, 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, ¼ teaspoon salt, about half of each of the herbs, and the millet to the saucepan with the tomato guts. Bring just to a boil, stirring constantly. Cover the pot, reduce the heat to medium low, and cook until the millet is tender and the liquid is absorbed, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat. If the millet is cooked and there’s still liquid in the pot, pour the millet through a strainer to remove the liquid—then return the millet to the pot.
- Stir half of the remaining herbs along with ½ cup of the cheese into the cooked millet. Taste the mixture and adjust for salt. It should be tasty but not too salty. Spoon the millet mixture into the tomatoes, gently packing it down as you reach the top of each tomato. Don’t worry if a tomato splits; just reshape it and prop it up against the others. Drizzle the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil over the tomatoes and cover the pan. (If the pan doesn’t have a cover, use aluminum foil.)
- Bake for 25 minutes, then remove the pan from the oven. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top of the tomatoes, and put the pan under the broiler just long enough to melt the cheese and add a little crunch to the millet. Finish with the reserved fresh herbs before serving.