If you want to do something right, ask the French. (See: kissing, child rearing, six-week vacations, macarons.)
Which is why we couldn’t wait to read Karen Le Billon’s book French Kids Eat Everything. She was one of us, a food-bribing parent who understood the value of a well-timed snack, until she moved her brood to Northern France. There she discovered the truth about her family’s eating habits and committed to make a change.
After devouring her insightful book in one sitting (how very American of us), we asked her to share a favorite family recipe. Her pick: stuffed tomatoes. Wait a minute. Our kids? Eat tomatoes?
If cooked the right amount of time, the tomatoes are firm yet melt in your mouth; the squishy middle part is removed prior to baking. So, yes, this could help with kids who don’t like that squishy middle part. In fact, I had forgotten until you mentioned it that my older daughter didn’t like tomatoes when she was little for precisely that reason.
Tomates Farcies (Stuffed Tomatoes)
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 sm. onion, minced
½ lb. ground beef
4 lg. tomatoes
1 red or yellow pepper, diced (optional)
¼ c. bread crumbs
2 tsp. dried parsley and/or oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
¼ c. grated Parmesan
1. Preheat oven to 375°.
2. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over low heat. Add the onion and saute until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high, quickly add the ground beef (to “seize” the meat), stir vigorously for 1 minute and lower the heat to medium-low. Simmer the meat until thoroughly cooked, 6-8 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, prepare the tomatoes: Slice off the tops and set them aside, then hollow the insides of the tomatoes with a small spoon, removing the flesh and pulp to a bowl.
4. Turn the tomatoes upside down on a plate to let the juices drain. Chop the tomato insides and add them to the simmering beef mixture. If you choose, add diced red or yellow pepper along with the tomatoes.
5. Combine bread crumbs, herbs, and spices in a mixing bowl. (Le Billon uses a little parsley, oregano, salt, and pepper; her sister-in-law uses paprika. Get creative.)
6. Add the bread crumb mixture to the meat in the skillet and stir thoroughly. Spoon the mixture (the farce) into the tomato bowls. Sprinkle with Parmesan. Put the tops back on the tomatoes like little hats.
7. Place the tomatoes in a baking dish; bake 20-25 minutes.
8. Cool for 5 minutes before serving.
French Kids Eat Everything is available online at amazon.com, $16.
Photo: Janelle Jones / DailyCandy