I was given this recipe by a producer of goat cheese, a savvy marketeer who hands out recipe leaflets with every cheese he sells. Ironically named Monsieur Cochon (Mr. Pig), he is an idealist, raising his herd of 150 goats on herbage from his own farm, with the help of his wife, Véronique. ?We are producers from start to finish, from raising the goats to making the cheese to meeting our customers, that?s what I enjoy,? says Jean-Marie Cochon. For these stuffed tomatoes, blue cheese or soft cream cheese can be substituted for the goat cheese.

Serves 4

  • 4 large tomatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds/675 grams total)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 slices white bread
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 small soft goat cheeses (about 8 ounces/225 grams total)
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • Salad leaves for serving (optional)
  • 3-inch/7.5 centimeter cookie cutter; small baking dish

Heat the oven to 400?F/200?C/Gas 6. Core the tomatoes, cut shallow lids from the flower (rounded) ends and discard them. Using a sharp spoon or melon baller, scoop out about half of the seeds from the tomatoes, taking care not to poke a hole in the bottom. Sprinkle the insides with salt and pepper. Toast the bread and stamp out the largest possible rounds from the center of each with a cookie cutter. Brush the rounds generously with olive oil and set them in the baking dish.

For the filling, crumble the goat cheeses into a bowl, or coarsely crush them with a fork. Mix the garlic, parsley, chives, thyme, pepper and a little salt in a small bowl and sprinkle half in the tomatoes. Add the crumbled cheese, mounding it so it is not packed down. Sprinkle with the remaining garlic and herbs and drizzle with the rest of the olive oil. Place the tomatoes on the bread croûtes. Bake until the cheese is very hot and the tomato skins start to split, 15 to 20 minutes. Serve them hot on individual plates, garnished with a few salad leaves if you like.

photo by France Ruffenach
Excerpted from THE COUNTRY COOKING OF FRANCE
by Anne Willan, Chronicle Books, 2007.