My mother stumbled across Martha Stewart’s Hors d’Oeuvres Handbook at a used bookstore a couple of years ago which is how it came to live on my shelf. Published in 1999, you won’t find it at your local Barnes & Noble although a quick Google search reveals copies for sale online for as low as $.01.
Considering the unchanging nature of the ingredients with which we cook (an egg after all has long been just an egg), I’m often amazed at how quickly today’s cookbooks become dated. Like last season’s must-have fashion accessory what was yesterday’s cauliflower rice now whiffs of curly parsley garnishes. Yet Stewart’s tome to party foods, much like its author, has withstood the last 17 years well and I often flip through its pages, filled with gorgeous photography, for culinary inspiration.
Take this recipe for cherry tomatoes stuffed with panzanella (Tuscan bread salad). I adapted Stewart’s recipe for this bite-sized appetizer for a party this past Saturday. With temperatures doggedly remaining near 90 degrees Fahrenheit even at 7 pm these refreshing hors d’oeuvres flew off their platter. Packed with cucumbers, roasted bell peppers, red onion, tomatoes, and, of course, bread, this recipe takes the ubiquitous and frankly forgettable cherry tomato and turns it into an edible vessel that deserves a spot next to the cauliflower rice on your summer table. Happy cooking!
For best results, take the time to finely chop all of the ingredients. This makes for a prettier presentation and frustration-free stuffing when it comes time to fill the cherry tomatoes.
48 cherry tomatoes
4 ounces French bread, cut into thin ¼-inch slices
¼ cup finely chopped, peeled, and seeded hothouse cucumber
¼ cup finely chopped red onion
¼ cup finely chopped roasted red bell pepper
½ cup finely chopped yellow grape tomatoes
1 small garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons drained and roughly chopped capers
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
For garnish: ¼ cup thinly sliced (chiffonade) basil
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Use a serrated knife to cut approximately a ¼-inch off the top of each tomato. Turn the tomato over and cut a very thin slice from the bottom (just enough to allow the tomato to sit flat, but not so much that the filling will leak out the bottom). Use the tip of the knife to gently loosen the flesh around the inside of each tomato and then use a grapefruit spoon to scoop out the seeds. The cherry tomatoes can be prepared in advance; wrap in plastic wrap and keep in a refrigerator.
Place the bread slices on a small baking sheet and bake in the 400-degree oven for 8 minutes or until crisp and just beginning to brown. Remove the bread from the oven and allow to cool before cutting the bread into very small pieces.
Combine the bread with the remaining ingredients, everything except the basil, and toss to combine. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour to allow flavors to meld.
When ready to serve, scoop the panzanella filling into each prepared cherry tomato. Garnish with the thinly sliced basil and serve immediately.