July 30, 2013

Goat Cheese Stuffed Tomatoes

I’m continuing the goat cheese theme, this week.  That’s because I just can’t get enough of the creaminess and deliciousness of my favorite cheese, and I also figured that I should probably embrace tomatoes, the season’s most valued ingredient.  Truth be told, I simply can’t ignore an obvious thing these days – tomatoes are overflowing!  And now they’re in my kitchen, too!   

Tomatoes play an important role in Romanian cuisine, but merely as supporting actors.  They often constitute the cozy, saucy, piping hot pool for stuffed cabbage, pork goulash and stuffed peppers stew, or are found amid many other chopped ingredients in rich sour soups.  But, on occasion, we love to thoroughly stuff them!  Everything from bread to baba ganoush; rice, meat, mushrooms, meat and mushrooms, liver, pork scraps, fish, and of course cheese.  Anything known to man just shove it down inside the beautiful and mostly unmolested fresh tomatoes!  And just like that, tomatoes become the centerpiece! 

Although tomatoes are not my favorites among summer’s delights, they are simply splendid when partnered with smooth and tangy goat cheese speckled with delicate dill in this wonderful Goat Cheese Stuffed Tomatoes recipe.  In Romania, cheese stuffed tomatoes are more often than not a quintessential component on cold appetizer platters next to a diverse array of cold cuts, meatballs, olives and cheeses.  But they could easily represent a dazzling and delightful appetizer all on their own, a light snack or a quick lunch.  

There’s no cooking or baking involved in this recipe, which makes it even more accessible, appealing, and perfect for the blazing hot season.  The tomatoes are firm and juicy, crisp and sweet, while the soft cheese filling is rich and packed with flavor and green freshness.  Suffice it to say – they are beautiful and very, very tasty!

Goat Cheese Stuffed Tomatoes
By Simply Romanesco inspired by my Grandma Vicki

Makes: 8 stuffed tomatoes


·         8 medium, ripe but still firm tomatoes 
·         12 ounces goat cheese, at room temperature 
·         6 ounces sour cream 
·         2 Tablespoons mayonnaise 
·         1 small yellow onion, finely chopped 
·         ¼ cup dill, chopped 
·         ½ teaspoon salt 
·         Optional: a few leaves of parsley


Using a small sharp knife, cut off the top (where the stem used to be) of each tomato.  Using a small spoon, gently scrape out the pulp and seeds and discard them.  Place the tomatoes, cut side down, on a paper towel to allow the extra juices to drain out, about 10 minutes.

In the meantime, combine the goat cheese, sour cream, mayonnaise, onion, dill and salt in a large bowl.  Mix together well until it becomes smooth and creamy.  Adjust the seasoning, adding more salt if necessary.

Place the tomatoes, cut side up, on a platter.  (If they tend to fall over, cut a tiny sliver off the bottom to allow them to stay still.)  Spoon 1-2 Tablespoons of the cheese mixture inside each tomato; I used a dessert decorator with the star tip for an extra decorative touch.  Decorate them with parsley leaves on top.  

Note:  If you have a bit of cheese mixture leftover, don’t throw it away; it’s simply superb smeared on a slice of crusty bread!          

Poftă Bună! (Bon Appétit!)

July 17, 2013

Fresh Goat Cheese Salad

Remember this glorious salad?  It’s funny how fast a year goes by...  What’s even more surprising is that I don’t embrace salads all that often.  It’s probably because my dominant meat lover side usually screams for decadently rich and mostly porky goodness.  But that changes significantly in the summertime.  Remember this family classic?  We eat it almost every day in the hot season.  

Last year, it felt as if we turned to the Warm Goat Cheese Salad for the sole purpose of detoxifying our bodies after a week of undeniable binge eating in Las Vegas.  But it was also because it was summer, a season when I’m instinctively inclined to get rid of the clutter and heavy food from my eating routine and make room for fresh, clean, light, and vibrant alternatives.  I’m also a goat cheese junkie.  And the chief ingredient of this salad is... you guessed... goat cheese.  On top of that, this salad is good, really good!  Yet, I felt that it needed some tweaking and a new spin to make it utterly delicious.    

My new version of the salad, the Fresh Goat Cheese Salad, is a riff on the Barefoot Contessa favorite without the fried element and with a couple of extras.  It’s a snap to assemble; uses only simple and unspoiled ingredients, and I find it to be more suited for the scorching heat than its sister.  Still, the salad is abundant in textures and lovely flavors.  The raisins give it a pleasantly sweet chewiness; the walnuts bring a toasty crunchiness; the goat cheese makes it hearty and creamy; while the drizzle of light homemade lemony dressing adds a touch of acidity.  A no muss, no fuss colorful summer salad, so graceful in its simplicity you’ll be eating it all season long!

Fresh Goat Cheese Salad
Inspired by Salad with Warm Goat Cheese by Barefoot Contessa

Makes: 6 servings


·         6-7 cups mixed salad greens
·         ½ cup golden raisins
·         Heaped ½ cup toasted walnuts, roughly chopped
·         4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
·         Juice of 1 large, juicy lemon
·         ½ teaspoon salt
·         ¼ teaspoon black pepper
·         ¼ cup olive oil
·         Optional: freshly ground black pepper


To toast the walnuts:  Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Spread the walnuts on a large baking sheet.  Roast the nuts in the oven for about 10-12 minutes.  Allow them to cool completely. 

Place the mixed salad greens in a large bowl.  Add the golden raisins, walnuts, and goat cheese. 

For the dressing:  In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, salt and pepper.  Slowly pour in the olive oil, whisking constantly until the dressing thickens slightly.  

Pour the dressing over the salad and toss well to combine.  Divide the salad among plates and add more freshly ground black pepper if desired.    

Poftă Bună! (Bon Appétit!)