Monday, July 8, 2013

Caprese quinoa-stuffed tomatoes

Did anyone else feel like getting out of bed and ready for work today was like climbing Mt. Everest?  I swear I even heard squeaking sounds while rubbing my eyes when I first woke up.  Whew.  I think that's a sign of a good, nay, great holiday weekend.  I won't say that I hope you're struggling, too, but I do hope you had a delightful 4th of July!

After nearly a week of fun and frolicking around the city (fireworks, baseball and soccer games, and visitors galore!), we totally crashed on Sunday evening.  And this isn't the kind of "crashing" that movies and TV shows make look so glamorous.  You know the scene: husband and wife, clad in designer pajamas, hair perfectly disheveled, cuddling on the couch watching a movie and having intelligent conversation about recent events.

No, this was the kind of crashing that reminded you of war zone or frat house party aftermath.  Bags dropped just inside the door, shoes and clothes on the floor and hanging on random chairs, and two sweaty people strewn on the floor and couch, muttering to each other that they can't possibly summon the energy to get up and shower.  It's just too far awaaaaaaaaaay.

If the thought of rinsing off layers of celebration was too much to fathom, you can imagine what happened when we broached the subject of dinner.  Grumbling, (labored) huffing and puffing, and a few choice words.  Even going out or ordering in required too much effort.  Thank goodness for pantry staples and a few unused tomatoes, because I was able to whip up a light and fresh dinner with minimal time upright.

Caprese quinoa-stuffed tomatoes!

I could eat caprese anything and, with Matt's basil and tomato plants flourishing, you best prepare yourselves for lots of caprese recipes this summer.

Always poppy quinoa got a major flavor boost from being cooked in water and tomato sauce.  I seasoned it with freshly chopped basil and minced garlic and tossed with chopped tomatoes.  The yummy mixture (quality checks are encouraged) is then stuffed into hollowed out vine-ripened tomatoes and topped with mozzarella and popped under the broiler to melt and marry.

After days of grilled feasts and ballpark eats, we were so thankful for lighter fare.  The tomatoes were enough for us (2 for him, 1 for her), but I would've normally added a salad on the side for a little more volume.

Even on the lighter side, this meal was big on flavor!  Classic Italian flavors made the quinoa taste like pizza but without any ensuing guilt.  Win win!  I made a mental note to add even more cheese next time and stir it into the quinoa and put it on top.  You can never have enough cheese.

We managed to peel ourselves off the couch juuuuuuust long enough to sit at the table like civilized adults and enjoy our fabulous dinner.  So so good, so filling, and so satisfying.  Even a bit energizing!  I managed to clean up, shower, and pack my lunch before I returned to my position on the couch.  A victory is a victory no matter how small, right?

Two years ago: Farfalle with tomatoes, corn, and bacon
Three years ago: Dippy eggs over spinach greens

Caprese Quinoa-Stuffed Tomatoes
-serves 4 as a light main dish with a salad or side, or 2 as a standalone meal

A few notes: When the basil plants are more robust later in the season, I plan to substitute homemade pesto for the mozzarella cheese for a fresh twist.  This is also a way to make this dish vegan and just plain delicious.  Pesto makes everything better!

3/4 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed
1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
3/4 cup water
4 large ripe tomatoes, cored, seeds removed, and flesh chopped
1/4 cup packed basil leaves, chopped
3/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
2 cloves garlic, minced
Ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Add quinoa, tomato sauce, and water to a small saucepan and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to a simmer, cover, and cook for 15 minutes.  Remove lid and continue to simmer for another two minutes.  There will be a bit more liquid than usual, but the quinoa will absorb it gradually when removed from heat and during later baking.

In a large bowl, combine cooked quinoa and its cooking liquid, garlic, basil, reserved chopped tomatoes, and half of shredded cheese.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Arrange tomatoes in small baking dish and stuff with quinoa mixture, packing as necessary.  Top each with remaining cheese divided among tomatoes.  Bake for roughly 25 minutes or until cheese is melted and begins to turn golden.  Serve and enjoy!