Fusion Cuisine has been around since the 1970s, a blending of culinary cultures and techniques which creates unique taste combinations. Those fajitas so well loved are a perfect example of fusion cuisine; Tex-Mex which is a combination of Southwestern United States and Mexican cultures.
With the last of the fall harvest coming in from home gardens, a question often heard is, “What can I do with all of these….?” Pickling, canning, freezing and sharing with others are great options; so is playing with new recipes. Tomatoes, that lovely, vine grown fruit that can be eaten raw and cooked; made into sauces; added to sandwiches and salads; mixed into skillet dinners or casseroles. Green tomatoes can be sliced ¼ inch thick, dipped into egg wash, bread crumb coated, or batter dipped; deep fried into a delicious treat that brings sighs of delight. Ah, but here comes the fusion part for tomatoes of reddish hue.
Stuffed tomatoes are not a novel idea; main form of stuffing being rice or bread. My recipe calls for cubed bread stuffing which is typically American, veggies, cheese and herbs which are typically Italian, but some of those same veggies plus chili powder gives it a taste of Mexican cuisine; hence the fusion part. To really boost up the taste and texture, to make this a complete meal, here comes more American influence…chicken!
I love using chili powder from New Mexico; it seems to have a heady aroma, a smokiness not found elsewhere. As a rule of thumb, I typically use mild spice when cooking; the longer the cooking, the spicier it becomes. Remember, you can always add, but cannot take away; that's always the best rule when working with spicy ingredients, and any other seasoning ingredients, especially salt. If you like more heat, but this is your first time making this recipe, take a little advice; start with mild and add dashes of hot sauce as you eat to see what it will taste like to you. This method not adventurous enough? Then use three types of chili powder (mild, medium and hot); make three stuffed tomatoes and use one type of chili powder with each. Stick a toothpick (one for mild, two for medium, three for hot) in the appropriate tomatoes; after they're baked do your taste testing. Don't forget you can get others in on this too for a real judging. Use firm tomatoes that can be easily gripped in the hand and won't squash or crack when being hollowed out.
Fusion Stuffed Tomatoes
4-6 medium to large firm tomatoes (dependent on size)
2 cups herbed stuffing cubes
1 Tbsp. butter
¼ cup each small diced red onion, red bell pepper and mushrooms
1 tsp minced garlic
2 chicken breasts halves, boneless and skinless
½ tsp each salt, ground black pepper, mild New Mexico chili powder; mixed together
Additional salt to season tomato interior
Olive oil; 1 Tbsp. per tomato
Grated Parmesan cheese; 1 tsp per tomato
With a small knife, cut out hard center where stem was attached and discard. Cut ¼ inch off the top; use a spoon to hollow out tomato to ¼ inch inside. Rinse out tomatoes and invert onto a paper towel lined pan. (I had two large and three medium which fit perfectly in my casserole dish.) Strain tomatoes, but reserve ½ cup of liquid; dice tomatoes and set aside.
Place stuffing cubes in a medium sized bowl, pour reserved tomato liquid over and mix.
In a medium sized skillet, over medium-high heat, melt tablespoon of butter; sauté onion, bell pepper and mushroom until softened. Add in ½ cup of diced tomatoes and garlic; let cook another minute; add to stuffing cubes.
At same time vegetables are sautéing; season both sides of chicken with seasoning mixture; brown in skillet, with one tablespoon olive oil, over medium- high heat (3-4 minutes per side). I made several extra which I cut into 1/2 inch slices and froze for use later on; very convenient when doing a spur of the moment recipe. Dice chicken and add to stuffing bowl; mix thoroughly.
Preheat oven to 375F; spray 2 quart round casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray. Sprinkle ¼ teaspoon salt inside each tomato, then stuff with mixture; place ¼ inch top back and place in casserole dish.
Drizzle one tablespoon olive oil over each tomato; bake for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and top with one teaspoon grated Parmesan cheese; return to oven for 5 minutes.
Makes 4-6 servings.
So, how does all this fusion in a tomato taste? It was a cultural party going on in the mouth and it tasted so good! The chicken was tender, juicy and savory; the stuffing herbalicious with a mild tomato flavor from the tomato liquid used to soak the cubes. The tomato itself, while fully cooked, could be cut with a fork and still hold together its texture; it tasted with the Parmesan cheese, like a very chunky and rich tomato sauce.