“What’s for dinner?” is one of the questions I probably have to answer most often. Sometimes, however, I am reluctant to answer. When I know that the answer will not please my offspring, I’d rather keep them in the dark till the dinner is on the table than have to endure complaints in advance. When the answer was “Baked tomatoes with ricotta custard” I was a little wary because it was the first time I was making this dish and I was not sure what reaction to expect. But Esther (who asked about dinner even before leaving for school in the morning) was very enthusiastic.
She was even more enthusiastic after she ate her share. She even tried to gently persuade her brother into giving up his portion: “Didn’t you say you did not like cooked tomatoes, Sebastiaan?” Well, it turned out he did like them, at least filled with ricotta custard. Which means the dish is going on repeat in our household!
I served the tomatoes with potato mash, sliced cucumber and lettuce for an easy weekday dinner, but they would also be great as a light lunch or divine for brunch. If I were making them for brunch, I would probably prepare both the tomatoes and the filling in the evening prior, because I like to keep my life simple in the morning.
The tomato variety I used were the fairly large “Ferline” tomatoes that are still doing well in the community garden, despite all the rain in August. But because of the excessive moisture, some of them burst during the baking (as is apparent in the pictures). They did not taste any less good though.
Baked tomatoes with ricotta custard
4 – 6 tomatoes (depending on size)
250 g (1 cup) ricotta
60 ml (¼ cup) cream
30 g (1 oz) finely grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp fresh thyme, finely chopped
Preheat the oven to 175 degrees Celsius (350 F).
Make an opening on the stem end of each tomato then hollow out the seed cavity. I did this using a dessert spoon, but if the tomatoes are firmer (which is better for filling and baking), you might need a small sharp knife to cut along the ribs.
Turn the tomatoes upside down and let the juices drain away.
To make the custard, whisk together ricotta, eggs and cream. Add the grated Parmesan and thyme and season to taste.
Prepare a small baking dish that will fit the tomatoes quite snugly. Brush the bottom of the dish with a little olive oil. Put the tomatoes in and carefully fill them with the custard up to 1 cm (½ inch) from top. This is probably easiest if you pour the custard from a spouted jug, but I just spooned the custard into the tomato cavities.
Bake until the custard is set and an inserted knife comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Serve warm.