The perfect recipe for summer, when tomatoes and sardines are both in season. Note that you can replace the fresh sardines with canned tuna, sardines or mackerel, which makes the prep a lot easier. This recipe can be made ahead to the point of the final bake then held in the fridge and baked just before serving.
BAKED TOMATOES STUFFED WITH SARDINES, ROASTED PEPPERS AND CAPERS
(Serves 2 generously, 4 if you add a side of vegetables and rice)
4 large, firm tomatoes
3 sweet peppers
6 fresh sardines
1/4 of a preserved lemon, peel only, diced finely
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 bu Italian parsley
2 T capers
Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
Red chili flake (optional)
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
2 T red wine vinegar
1) Roast the peppers: place them in a baking dish, drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, then place close to the hot broiler.
Continue broiling until evenly browned all over. Move the peppers to a bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, then let cool. Seed and peel, cut the peppers into quarters, then julienne.
2) Scale and gut the sardines. Wash well in cold water, then pat dry with a paper towel. Season inside and out with salt and pepper. Saute the sardines in a heavy pan with olive oil until well browned on both sides and cooked through. Cool.
Lift off the filets, discarding as many bones as possible (it can be tough to get them all for small sardines!).
3) Finish the stuffing: Pick the parsley and chop. Mix the sardine meat, capers, preserved lemon, grated Parmesan and parsley. Season well with salt and pepper, add the chili flake to taste if using.
4) Clean the tomatoes: Cut the top off the tomatoes. Using a melon baller, remove all the inside meat and seeds, leaving just the outside wall of the tomato. Sprinkle the inside of the tomatoes with salt and leave inverted to drain for 20 minutes.
Chop the removed meat of the tomatoes and reserve for sauce with any juice that drains from the tomatoes. Note in the photo, I have removed a thin slice from the bottom of each tomato so that it be stable when stuffed.
5) Make the sauce base: In a small saucepan, saute the diced onion and garlic in a little olive oil until it begins to soften. Deglaze with the red wine vinegar, add the reserved tomato pulp and juice. Cook over high heat unit the liquid has evaporated, stirring often. Season well with salt and pepper. Reserve.
6) Stuff the tomatoes with the sardine mixture. Turn the sauce base into a baking dish. Arrange the stuffed tomatoes on the sauce. Drizzle with olive oil. Bake in a 325 degree over until the tomatoes are tender and the stuffing is hot all the way through, about 40 minutes (check by sticking a small knife into the center of the stuffing. If it comes out hot, they are ready to serve). If you like, stir a tablespoon of cold butter into the sauce in the baking dish to finishe.
7) Serve immediately. Saffron rice makes a very nice pairing.