Tradition. (tradition!) I feel like it’s my duty to institute and instill rituals for our family. I am the keeper of the kitchen, the archivist, the dishwasher. Some nights my husband is the better craftman, but I have become the official cake and muffin baker, and I take out the garbage. I remember distinctly many meals shared with my family growing up and they must, somehow inform the homemaker I’ve become. That term seems quaint and outdated, but I like it – being the one who creates our little familial world, or as Feist puts it, “make[s] a home from a rented house” is so important, a necessary role, the still point in a moving world. Sitting down at the table, discussing the highs and lows of our day like the First Family does, scraping our leftovers into the dog’s bowl, these mundane activites are, for a while, the essence of childhood, explicit memories to reassure and sustain you all your life.
Will this stuffed tomato be one of the recipes I handwrite in a book to pass down to my children and my children’s children? Maybe. It’s zippy and satisfying, a nice use of leftover pesto and a way to get some lycopene before the start of tomato season in a few weeks – when I plan to eat nothing but misshapen heirloom weirdos with my bare hands and maybe a little salt, by the way. Anyway, it’s not that this recipe isn’t a winner – it’s very clever in the way it recombines flavors that are constant companions – it’s just that you never know what’s going to stick. I have a funny feeling that the events and experiences that I want to carry weight are not necessarily the things that will endure in our minds. The only redeeming grace in my not having a plan is that I won’t be disappointed – I hope – when life inevitably shifts and beelines in a different direction altogether. I am not prepared for any of this, but I can make a wholesome, delicious dinner.
Adapted from a recipe in Food Network Magazine
- 4 plump, ripe tomatoes, tops removed and reserved
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 lb sweet or hot Italian sausage
- 1/2 green bell pepper, diced
- 1/4 onion, diced
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1/4 cup panko bread crumbs, divided
- 4 heaping tablespoons basil pesto
- Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Use a pairing knife and spoon to scoop out the tomato pulp, juice, and seeds. In a food processor blend tomato innards and 2 tablespoons olive oil until smooth. Pour into a small baking dish. Saute sausage with peppers, onions, and garlic in 1 tablespoon olive oil, about five minutes. Place tomatoes in the baking dish and fill with one quarter of the sausage mixture, breadcrumbs, pesto, salt and pepper. Place the tops in the pan, cut side down. Bake for 20 minutes. Plate with the tomato tops and sauce. Serve with a green salad and crusty bread.