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Small Tomatoes Stuffed With Goat Cheese

June 3, 2006

Serves 4.

16 small vine-ripened tomatoes

1 eggplant, 1 inch around outside only, insides set aside for another use

1 zucchini

1 green bell pepper

1 red bell pepper

1 yellow bell pepper and/or orange bell pepper

1 onion

1/4 to 1/2 cup olive oil

Coarse sea salt

Freshly grated black pepper

1/2 bunch basil, chopped

1/2 to 3/4 pound fresh goat cheese (such as Montrachet, Ile de France, or even herb Boursin)

1/3 cup whipping cream

For base:

3 to 4 small zucchini

Cut the bottoms off the tomatoes so they will stand, not roll, on the plate. Cut a little slice off the top of the tomato to make a "cap" for later. Hollow out the tomatoes with a small spoon. Turn the tomatoes upside down on a rack on a plate.

Finely dice the eggplant, zucchini, bell peppers and onion. Heat a couple of tablespoons of the oil in a heavy saute pan and add the eggplant. (Avoid adding more oil, as it will absorb the oil when cooking, then release it when it is cold.) Cook the eggplant a few minutes until soft. Heat 2 more tablespoons of olive oil in another pan and add the zucchini, bell peppers and onion. Add more oil if you think absolutely necessary. Cook until nearly soft and combine with the eggplant. Cool. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as necessary. When cool, add half the basil, all the goat cheese and whipping cream. Taste again and reseason. Stuff the tomatoes with the filling. Sprinkle more basil on top for color. Top with the "cap."

Meanwhile, slice the remaining zucchini thinly, saute in some of the remaining hot olive oil, remove and set aside. When ready to serve, surround the tomatoes with the zucchini, making a flower.

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