Fest fever continues this weekend in New Orleans with the Creole Tomato Festival. This one’s held at the French Market and celebrates one of our favorite local crops, the Creole Tomato. Creole Tomatoes are juicy, meaty and firm thanks to South Louisiana’s rich soil and subtropical (hot and humid) climate. Unfortunately, the season for these bright red beauties is short and local consumption is high. So you have to travel to the Greater New Orleans area or neighboring river parishes to get them. To fully appreciate all that a Creole Tomato is, it’s best to eat them like a local. That can be done in one of three ways:
- Grab a Creole Tomato straight off the vine, or out of a basket if you’re at a farmer’s market or roadside vegetable stand, sprinkle it with salt (from that shaker you keep in your back pocket) and bite into it like you would an apple;
- Make a Creole Tomato sandwich by layering thick slices between two pieces of white bread (preferably Bunny bread) with a generous slather of Blue Plate mayo and a little salt and pepper; or
- Slice it on a plate, top it with a dollop of Blue Plate mayo and season to taste with S&P. This is actually my favorite way to eat them. It’s a No. 2 without the bread.
Please don’t get mad at me for enticing you with something you may not be able to get your hands on. Remember, I’m in the same boat. There are no Creole Tomatoes in North Georgia. And since I haven’t been home since early May and probably won’t get back there until July, I’m more than likely going to miss out on this year’s bounty. I’m celebrating anyway the only way I know how. I’m cooking with tomatoes. Stuffing the cherry variety with hot Italian sausage. These are a finger food version of a mighty fine Stuffed Creole Tomato they sell at the fest. Even though the flavors are not exactly the same, they still transport me home.
Until next week …
Sausage Stuffed Cherry Tomatoes Recipe
3 pints cherry tomatoes
1 pound hot Italian sausage, casing removed
1/4 cup chopped onions
1/4 cup chopped green onions
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Using a serrated knife, cut the tops off the tomatoes. Carefully scoop out the insides with the tip of the knife. Discard tops and pulp. Lightly sprinkle tomato shells with salt and turn upside down on a stack of paper towels to drain. Meanwhile, make the filling. In a large skillet over medium heat, cook sausage, breaking up the meat with a potato masher or the back of a spoon, until browned, 5-7 minutes. Add onions, green onions and garlic; cook until tender, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. Stir in bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese and oregano. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add beaten eggs; stir to combine. Transfer tomato shells to a lightly greased baking dish; fill with sausage mixture. Drizzle olive oil over stuffed tomatoes and bake, uncovered, until tomatoes are tender and top of filling is golden brown, about 20 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature. Makes 8-10 appetizer servings.