Being vegan in Sicily, a modified version of the Mediterranean Diet? Balsam Mediterranean Kitchen recipe: baked tomatoes stuffed with rice

TomatoesBaked tomatoesAccording to the latest data collected from a survey conducted by Eurispes, The Institute of the Italian Research for 2017, the number of vegans in Italy has increased from 1% in 2016 to 3% in 2017. The reason(s) behind the increase is not yet clear. Health benefits? Ethics? Environment? A healthy vegan diet may be associated with certain health benefits however, more research is needed since the evidence remains for the most part anecdotal.

Does a plant based diet, based on locally grown produce sound familiar? The Mediterranean Diet is associated with numerous protective benefits, especially against cardiovascular disease which manifests as heart attack, chest pain or stroke. Here in Sicily, an island predominantly dedicated to agriculture, there are plenty of plant based recipes which can be categorised as ‘vegan’.

It’s the start of the summer season and that means tomatoes! Plump, ripe and in all different shapes and sizes, the possibilities are endless. Let me count the ways… on their own simply sliced full length and dressed with olive oil and a sprinkling of salt and oregano. Or chopped into small cubes and mixed with a little chopped spring onion, a sprinkling of salt and oregano with a dash of homemade wine vinegar on toasted bread for the famous bruschetta. I’m salivating just thinking about it.

The pomo d’oro or golden apple is a nutrient powerhouse. A rich source of antioxidants and nutrients such as lycopene and beta carotene support the immune system and are thought to provide health benefits in decreasing the risk of disease. Dietary fibre, vitamin C, vitamin A and folic acid help support heart health, cell growth and maintain healthy skin. Essential minerals such as potassium helps maintain a healthy blood pressure. A lot of their good properties are found in the skin so try not to peel them!

One of my favourite quick, easy and economical Mediterranean Diet…..sorry vegan….recipes is pomodori ripieni di riso. They can be prepared earlier and baked in the oven just before you want to eat them. Nice hot or cold.

Baked tomatoes stuffed with rice (suitable for vegans, vegetarians or for anyone who loves tomatoes.)

Serves 4

Ingredients:

8 large beef / cuore di bue tomatoes

Lots of olive oil

Approximately 30 grams of rice per tomato (I use wholegrain or brown rice)

Chopped fresh basil leaves

Pinch of dried oregano

Salt and pepper

Method: 

*Preheat the oven to 180℃/350℉/Gas Mark 4

*Brush an ovenproof dish with olive oil

*Slice off the tops of the tomatoes and put to one side

*Carefully scoop out the tomato flesh and seeds. Remove any white pith and keep the tomato flesh

*Put a dash of salt into each hollowed tomato and rest upside down on kitchen paper

*Boil the rice in salted water for a few minutes less than its recommended cooking time

*Drain the rice and stir into the tomato flesh

*Add the basil, oregano and a good glug of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and mix well

*Spoon the mixture into the tomato shells and add the tops. Don’t worry if you have any leftover rice, it’s delicious on its own!

*Place the tomatoes into the oven dish, drizzle with olive oil and add a pinch of salt to the tops of the tomatoes

*Bake for 30 minutes

Buon appetito!