A Pure Vegetarian Dish
Tomatoes Meet Tomato Purée Meets Saffron
This vegetarian recipe from Amritsar, India, uses Basmati Rice. If other varieties of Rice are used instead, the cooking time can be shortened, but the result will be different. Of course Basmati Rice is superior!
Tomatoes Stuffed with Basmati Rice
2 cups Basmati Rice (16 ounces)
3 Bay leaves
1 pinch Saffron
3 Cinnamon sticks
6 large, round red Tomatoes
1 stalk fresh Celery, finely chopped
½ small white Onion, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped Garlic, about 10 grams
2 cups (16 ounces) Tomato Purée
½ teaspoon Salt, or to taste
1 teaspoon Oregano, or to taste
1 – 2 tablespoons Butter or Vegetable Oil for cooking
First Step, Making the Rice: First, wash and drain the Basmati Rice in the standard way for Basmati Rice.
Note: See the Note on Basmati Rice, below.
Then boil it stove top in the usual way for Basmati Rice in water flavored with Bay Leaves, Saffron and Cinnamon.
When the boiling is complete, leave the Rice to settle and absorb the moisture and complete lengthening. This part of the preparation cannot really be hurried and is the most time-consuming of all, but is worth it.
Preparing the Tomatoes: To prepare the Tomatoes, wash and dry the Tomatoes and cut off a thin slice from the top of each.
Scoop out the pulp and fill the Tomato shells with the cooked Basmati Rice.,which has been seasoned by boiling with the Saffron, Bay Leaves and Cinnamon sticks.
Steam the tomatoes lightly in an upright position, about five minutes after steaming begins, and then garnish with chopped fresh Celery.
The scooped-out pulp can be added to some canned Tomatoes to make the Tomato Pureée.
Final Step, the Tomato Sauce: You can make Tomato Purée by placing cooked, canned Tomatoes in a food processor until they are liquid.
You can add the fresh Tomato pulp scooped from the large Tomatoes to make up the needed quantity. These are best strained through a cheesecloth or fine sieve to remove any seeds.
To complete the Sauce, first sauté the finely chopped Onion and Garlic in Butter or Oil for about 2 minutes.
Add the Tomato Purée and sauté for another 5 minutes over low flame. Then place the sauce in a food processor or blender and pulse several times until it is smooth. Add Salt and Oregano to taste and combine thoroughly.
Serve the Sauce hot in a separate serving dish on the side with the Tomatoes, which should be served hot. You can make the Sauce while the Tomatoes are steaming. This dish serves 6 persons, along with other dishes and is a pure vegetarian dish.
Note on Basmati Rice:Basmati Rice is unusual in that it does not expand when it cooks, but eh grains lengthen. Basmati must be soaked first for the grains to lengthen.
It is essential to rinse Basmati very well before cooking, to remove the cornstarch which was added to prevent the grains from sticking during the long aging process.
Basmati needs to be washed 2 to 3 times before cooking and after washing should be rinsed in a colander in running water several times, then placed in a bowl with at least an inch deep with fresh cold water. It should be left to stand and soak at least half an hour. So the whole washing and soaking process takes 30 to 35 minutes.
After washing, during the soaking process, one uses double the amo0unt of water as the Rice by volume. When the Rice is drained, the water should be kept aside for cooking the Rice.
In cooking Basmatic Rice, use a tablespoon of Butter or Vegetable Oil and cover the measured and washed quantity of Rice with the reserved water/ Bring the water to a boil, stir and cover and then turn down the heat to a simmer. Cook the Rice at a very low heat, covered, without opening or stirring for at least 10 minutes, or until the water is all dried up. This requires some talent and esperience, since you cannot see inside the pot unless you have a pot with a transparent lid like some of Martha Stewart’s lines.
Then, when the cooking is done, turn off the heat, remove the Rice from the heat and let it stand with the cover on until each grain separates and swells up. If the Rice has been correctly cooked, when you open and check it, the surface of the Rice will be pocked with tiny craters like the surface of the moon.
Total cooking time is about an hour from initial washing through the final sitting period which enables the grains to lengthen in the way unique to Basmati rice. This compares with about 20 minutes for average Japanese short-grain rice, or about half an hour, counting all preparation time.
If you care for the unique flavor, fragrance and texture of Basmati Rice, you will not begrudge the longer cooking time, but you need to be aware of the time factor. More details of cooking Basmatic Rice are contained in the Article on that Ingredient.