Mediterranean-Style Tomatoes with Tuna Stuffing

 Mediterranean-Style Tomatoes with Tuna Stuffing



If these beautiful appetizers aren’t Mediterranean,  French or Spanish, they should be. Tuna-stuffed tomatoes just scream summertime in Provence or Valencia! I believe I actually had something like this with French friends many years ago. But my memory tends to be generous.


American fresh tomatoes stuffed with mayonnaise-heavy chicken salad or tuna salad were an item from my mother's generation, and considered quite genteel. Necessarily seasonal, they were realistic only in summer in those ancient days before trucks and planes brought in nearly vine-ripe produce from Florida and California and Chile.


Now, thanks to agricultural advances we have tomatoes year round that actually taste like something. “Campari” tomatoes are a hybrid (but not the much-vilified GMO) developed in the 1990s for commercial greenhouse and hydroponic growing. These intensely red, small (about 2-inch diameter), round beauties, often sold “on the vine,” are sweet and tasty, and are available in supermarkets most of the time. They seem ideal for this European-style “small dish.”


In the Mediterranean, “light” rather than white or Albacore tuna is preferred, and it’s usually packed in olive or other oil rather than water. My recipe calls for oil-packed light tuna, from Italy if available, for the most Mediterranean taste. Several of the other ingredients are also Mediterranean, including green olives, capers, olive oil and wine vinegar. The round bottoms on Campari tomatoes makes standing them up on a platter a bit difficult. A tiny slice off the bottom of the tomatoes, or a thin bed of finely shredded lettuce under them will help.


The recipe serves 4 as an appetizer or 2-3 as a luncheon. They should be eaten fairly fresh, but can be stored in the refrigerator for an hour or so. If stored too long the tomato softens.


1 pound (usually 1 package) Campari tomatoes, as similar in size as possible

1 (4-ounce) can light or white tuna, packed in oil, Italian if available

1 green onion, green and white parts

1 inch piece of celery stalk

8 small green pimento-stuffed olives

1 teaspoon capers, drained

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

A pinch of cayenne

1/2 teaspoon olive oil

1/2 teaspoon wine vinegar

A little minced parsley or green onion top for garnish


Rinse and drain the tomatoes. With a sharp knife, thinly slice off their tops. Save the tops. (Optionally, in addition, cut a very thin slice off the bottoms of the tomatoes so eventually they will stand up easier on a serving dish.) With a small spoon (a teaspoon-sized measuring spoon is useful) scoop out the juicy middles of the tomatoes, and put those middles in a colander or sieve to drain. Turn the hollowed-out tomatoes upside down on a paper towel to drain.


On a cutting board, using a chef’s knife, cut the flesh off the tomato tops, discarding the stem-attachment area. With the knife, finely chop both these pieces of top and the middles of the tomatoes. Return the chopped tomato flesh to the colander or sieve and press it down firmly to get rid of the juices. Put the pressed tomato flesh into a mixing bowl.


On the cutting board, finely mince the green onion and piece of celery, along with the drained olives and capers. Add this mixture to the chopped tomato flesh


Open the can of tuna and press the can lid firmly into the fish to squeeze out the liquid. Add the pressed tuna to the mixing bowl. Add the salt, pepper, cayenne, olive oil and vinegar. With a spoon or fork break up any pieces of tuna, and combine the mixture well. Taste for salt, and mix in a little if desired.


Spoon tuna mixture into the hollowed-out tomatoes, filling them evenly and mounding the filling on top as necessary. On the cutting board finely mince a small amount of parsley or green onion top and place a small amount on the center of the filled tomatoes.


Serve now or refrigerate up to an hour. If too long the tomato loses its firmness.

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