It's the too-many-tomatoes time of year. They're at the markets and in back yards. Co-workers leave bags of them on your desk. What to do? Stuff them.

Fortunately, tomatoes are welcome in almost any dish. Fragrant herbs such as basil, oregano, dill, parsley and thyme are wonderful seasonings for tomatoes, but more pungent spices like curry powder, cumin, or chili powder also blend well into tomato-based sauces. Tomatoes stuffed with rice, feta, pine nuts and vegetables are delicious too.

Nobody can have too many tomatoes. They are a rich source of vitamins A and C and the potent phytochemical lycopene, one of the few dietary sources of that cancer-fighting antioxidant. Some studies suggest that lycopene especially helps to protect against prostate cancer.

Lycopene is found in red or pink fruits such as watermelon, papaya, pink guava and pink grapefruit as well as in tomatoes. Antioxidants can help protect against the kind of damage that gets cancer started, and the antioxidant nature of compounds within tomatoes has long been known.

Recent studies suggest that tomatoes may help combat cancer in additional ways, at later stages of the process. In the laboratory, tomato components have stopped the proliferation of several cancer cell types, including breast, lung and endometrium. Tomatoes have attracted particular attention from prostate cancer researchers because lycopene and its related compounds tend to concentrate in tissues of the prostate.

The best tomatoes are vine-ripened and deeply colored. They should feel heavy for their size. Unripe tomatoes can be ripened in a paper bag at room temperature. Do not refrigerate fresh tomatoes because their texture will become mealy and their taste watery.

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Tomatoes come in so many varieties that they are always abundant but never boring. There are cherry tomatoes, even smaller grape tomatoes and oval-shaped Roma tomatoes. Yellow or green tomatoes have a slightly different taste, and farmers’ markets have begun to offer dozens of heirloom varieties such as green zebra and cherokee purple. Any large, firm tomato will work in the following recipe.

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Stuffed Tomatoes with Feta and Pine Nuts

Makes 4 servings.

Ingredients

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 1 Tbsp. pine nuts
  • 4 large, ripe tomatoes
  • 3/4 cup cooked brown rice
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and minced
  • 1/2 cup yellow squash, finely chopped
  • 4 Tbsp. feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1/4 cup onion, finely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh oregano, minced
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh basil, minced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a shallow baking pan with cooking spray and set aside.
  2. In small skillet, toast pine nuts over medium heat for 2 minutes until golden brown, shaking pan frequently.
  3. Set aside. Slice off stem end (top) of tomatoes. Using a spoon, gently scoop out pulp. Finely chop pulp and place 1/3 cup of pulp in a large bowl (discard any remaining pulp).
  4. Add rice to pulp along with toasted pine nuts, bell pepper, yellow squash, 2 tablespoons of feta, minced onion, oregano, basil, salt and black pepper. Mix well. Stuff rice mixture into tomato shells. Transfer tomatoes to pan and top with remaining feta cheese. Bake 20 minutes, until top is golden. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Nutritional Information Per Serving:
120 calories
4 g. total fat (2 g. saturated fat)
18 g. carbohydrate
4 g. protein
5 g. dietary fiber
119 mg. sodium


AICR