Guys, we should definitely, definitely talk about these. Here, I’ll go first: I think it’s essential that you not let another tomato season pass without making them. I realize that you might imagine rice-stuffed tomatoes to be something unappealing. Maybe you had a cold, stomach-turning one at a buffet wedding too many years ago that its squidgy horror should still be fresh in your mind, and yet. Maybe you cannot imagine why anyone would consider rice stuffed inside a tomato to be something noteworthy, being just rice and tomatoes, possibly two of the most generic foods out there. Maybe you’re waiting to hear what I dolled these up with to make them interesting — was there bacon or cheese or caramelized onions? Did I amp it up with whole grains or kale? Maybe I cooked an egg inside, like that one time? And maybe you’re going to be disappointed when I tell you that I added nothing, just about nothing at all, and that’s the best thing about them.
I started obsessing over rice-stuffed tomatoes a year ago. At the time, I loved them because they felt to me like the essence of simple Italian and Mediterranean cooking, this idea that you don’t need to lay 16 outside flavors onto things as simple as seasonal tomatoes and plain rice to make them taste amazing. You could coax the maximum flavor out of them with seasoning, by toasting the rice, by cooking them with a tiny amount of onion and garlic in olive oil then slowly in the oven. But, at the time, I never told you about them because they made me a little sad. At the time, I was moping that the family vacation to Rome — a place I imagined did a fine job with these throughout tomato season — we’d been trying to take for as long as we’d been a family had gotten postponed again due to all of those real-life things that have the nerve to get in the way of a good time. I mean, I know that sometimes as a grown-up you don’t get to do everything that you want, but I was starting to question the point of working all of the time and spending scrupulously if it didn’t, at least every few years, lead to things we really wanted?