You’ll want to choose large, firm tomatoes for this preparation, because they need to yield enough chopped flesh to add to the filling and because they will serve as edible vessels for the eggs. The stuffed tomatoes are seated on pita or flatbread because: It’s a good way to use up those slightly stale pieces; the bread base helps keep the tomatoes upright, and it absorbs some of the tomato goodness; baking intensifies the tomato flavor.
A finishing touch of the earthy Middle Eastern spice blend za’atar makes the dish. You can find it at some larger grocery stores in addition to Middle Eastern markets.
Serve with a fruit salad. Adapted from a recipe in The New Middle Eastern Vegetarian: Modern Recipes From Veggiestan, by Sally Butcher (Interlink, 2012).
Cheese-Baked Egg-Stuffed Tomatoes
3 whole-wheat pitas or 1 large flatbread
2 or 3 large tomatoes
2 medium cloves garlic
1 small onion
1 tablespoon olive oil
Leaves from 2 sprigs marjoram
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 or 3 large eggs
Freshly ground black pepper
3 1/2 ounces freshly grated hard cheese, such as pecorino Romano
1 teaspoon dried za’atar (may substitute sweet paprika)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Use non-stick cooking oil spray to grease the inside of a medium baking dish.
Toast the pita bread, or cut the flatbread into pieces that will fit in the toaster, then toast them.
Core the tomatoes. Cut the tops (about one-third) off the tomatoes, then coarsely chop the tops and place in a bowl. Use a melon baller or grapefruit spoon to scoop out the insides of the tomatoes, adding them to the bowl. Mince the garlic. Coarsely chop the onion to yield about 3/4 cup.
Heat the oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion becomes translucent. Stir in the garlic, marjoram and turmeric, then add the chopped tomato and bits, stirring to incorporate.
Arrange the toasted pita or flatbread pieces so they cover the baking dish in a single layer. Divide most of the onion-tomato mixture between each tomato shell, then spread the rest on the toasted bread in the baking dish. Nestle the tomatoes on the bread, then crack an egg over each tomato, letting it fall on top of the onion-tomato mixture. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with the cheese and za’atar.
Bake for 15 minutes or just until the eggs have set and the cheese has melted. Transfer the bread and tomatoes to individual plates; serve right away. Makes 2 or 3 servings.