There’s no better way to bring in summer than by getting up early one sunday before the church bells ring at a small catholic church near the market. I’ve always been fascinated with the concept of open air markets, see when farmers unload their trucks full of lush vegetables and fruits. I often find myself wandering the morning markets in New York and perhaps they are too neat and too calm. I like my markets crowded, nudging at other patrons of markets as eager as me to get the best of the food before the bells chime noon. The constant bartering, the rows of reds and greens, the smells of pungent cheese and the ever glorious food truck full of roasting chickens rotating and dripping their fat as if photographed by Marilyn Minter herself, onto some rose married and salted potatoes. The magic of telling the vendor when I will be cutting into a cantaloupe and based on this he hand plucks the perfect cantaloupe never wears off. Some of my favorite markets have been in Mexico (especially during christmas where the christmas markets also take place) and people slowly greet the day with complete strangers, eating tacos and drinking fresh juice on tiny bar-like stools. Or the small village markets in France where they sell lavender by the bundle and the chickens roam near your feet, still alive and kicking it. This ritual of sharing my morning with strangers and witnessing the thrill of food hunting is a bit intoxicating with smells and colors.
And so, after slowly running out of room on my arms to carry the bags, I usually tire out after an hour and am completely famished. Too hungry to even fathom cooking all the foods I just bought, I make my way to the butcher stand, where there sit rows of beautiful ruby red tomatoes farcies, which roughly translates to stuffed tomato. All basking in oil and parsley and topped off with little red hats. Silliness aside, these meat-filled tomatoes usually associated with the South of France are what I turn to when I am homesick, and instantly i’m brought back to the town square with all the market goes. Once I wobble my way back to the tiny apartment with a bounty of vegetables, cheese, and the beloved tomatoes I hurry to turn the oven on and start to boil the water for the rice. Already cooked, these tomatoes only need to be reheated. Unfortunately New York markets do not have these delish tomatoes (they really should!) and so I’ve been forced to create these little beauties on my own. I admit, my mother’s recipe is almost as good as the tomatoes I get in France, so it has become a stable for our American bound family. You should give this recipe a try- I promise that the little hats are not the only good thing about this meal. Traditionally, this meal is served with rice, which is perfection, but if you’re looking to add more color to your plate these little gems also pair well with steamed green beans or pan seared zucchini topped off with parsley. Since this core of the recipe comes from my maman, I have named these farcie as Annette’s Tomato Farcie.
Serves 4-6 | Generously especially with a side of long grain rice
1 lb of sweet italian sausage
1 lb of ground turkey
1 large egg
½ cup of whole milk
Half of a day-old baguette /
6 buffalo tomatoes
¼ cup chopped Italian (flat leafed Parsley)
4 garlic cloves peeled and diced
1 tablespoon of fennel seeds (optional)
Olive oil for cooking
Fresh ground pepper
Salt, to taste
Preheat the oven at 400 degrees F. Oil a large casserole pan and set aside, if you do enjoy the taste of garlic you also have the option of crushing an additional glove and rubbing the inside of the pan with it for more flavor.
Rinse the tomatoes and wipe dry. Take to knife and cut the top half inch of the tomato (keep stem intact) as if you were cutting the tomatoes a little hat. With spoon, gently scoop out the seeds and the membrane of the tomatoes. If you prefer not to waste the insides of the tomatoes you can simply place them in a bowl and make tomato sauce. Sprinkle the inside of the tomatoes with a bit of salt and flip the tomatoes upside down on a paper towel. Leave the tomatoes to dry out for twenty minutes.
Peel and finely dice your garlic gloves and add in a medium bowl. Chop the parsley and also add it into the bowl. If you are using the fennel seeds, now would be a good time to sprinkle them in. Place the ground turkey in the bowl and mix the components with a fork. Squeeze out the italian sausage meat from the casings and discard of the casings. Again, with fork, mix all the ingredients together.
In a small bowl tear the day old baguette into smaller breadcrumbs. Pour milk onto the bread and let soak for a minute. Once the bread becomes soft, be sure to squeeze out the excess milk and transfer the bread crumbs into the larger bowl. Add egg.
With hands, mix the bread with the mixed meat and make sure all is mixed together. Salt and ground fresh pepper to taste.
Flip your salted tomatoes and transfer them to the casserole pan. Tomatoes should be 3 inches apart. With your hands or spoon, fill the farcie into the tomatoes and fill it to the top of the tomatoes. If you have left over farcie, simply pile onto to the tomatoes evenly. Top the Farcie off with the tomato tops. Drizzle the tomatoes with some olive oil and bake in the oven for 50 minutes.
Note that once the meat is cooked at 160- 165 degrees F. The tops of the tomatoes may get a bit burnt/blistered, which is completely fine and adds to the taste. Let cook for five minutes and sprinkle the tomatoes with fresh chopped parsley. Serve with a side of rice/vegetable of your choice and taste the South of France.
Note that these keep well for three days in the fridge.