Last night, when our weekly CSA shipment arrived on our doorstep, I could barely lift the box. Because of the heavy rain early in the summer, a lot of our produce here in Oregon was pushed back, and evidently, we have just arrived at the peak of the tomato season. I got three large bags of colorful, sweet, farm fresh, vine ripened tomatoes, ranging in size from little pear and grape tomatoes, all the way up to big slicers. I simply couldn’t let these beauties go to waste. So, after eating a fair amount of smaller tomatoes straight from the bag, I decided that stuffing the cherry tomatoes sounded like a good plan. But with what? I scoured the refrigerator to see what I had on hand that would make a good filling. Hummus? Egg salad? Marinated feta cheese? They all sounded delicious. But then I laid my eyes upon a package of fresh goat cheese. You have to understand that ever since I was five years old, I have had a deep affinity for deliciously tangy goat cheese. That summer, when I was five, we visited my great grandmother’s farm in Washington, where she kept chickens, rabbits, pigs, cows, and goats. While I was not, unlike my siblings, very keen on the idea of milking the goats, the tangy, salty, earthy, homemade cheese was a revelation. And, even today, I still consider it to be a decadent treat. I began by slicing the tops off of the cherry tomatoes, and, using a melon baller, scooped out the seeds and pulp. (You may also want to make a tiny slice on the bottom of each to give any uncooperative tomatoes a flat surface upon which to stand.) In a mixing bowl, I then combined four ounces of goat cheese, about a third of a cup of Greek yogurt (which helped to loosen the cheese up a little bit, though sour cream, or a splash of buttermilk would work equally well), about a fourth of a teaspoon of prepared horseradish (or to taste), one small garlic clove (which I grated on a microplane zester), about two tablespoons each of minced fresh basil and chives (though dill, tarragon, or any fresh green herb would also be equally delicious… these are just what I happened to have on hand today), a dash of salt, and freshly ground black pepper. I loaded the cheese mixture into a zip lock bag, snipped off the corner, and “piped” the filling into each of the tomatoes. (Depending on the size of your tomatoes, you should be able to fill about a dozen or so.) The sweet tomatoes are a perfect backdrop to the herbaceous, creamy, tangy, filling. They are beautiful served on a bed of fresh chives (splayed out “pick up sticks” style), and garnished with either more fresh chives or a chiffonade of fresh basil, and the tiniest sprinkling of pimentón (for color, and hint of smoke). These are the perfect little bites to serve with cocktails. They are easy to make, quick to put together, and people really go crazy for them. Enjoy! (And don’t forget, there is only one day left to enter for your chance to win my first giveaway – a $50 Williams-Sonoma gift card!!! )
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