It doesn’t matter if you’re picking them from your garden, a farmers’ market, or in the supermarket’s produce section — beautiful fresh tomatoes are everywhere. The question is, what are you going to do with all those fresh tomatoes? My Dad’s favorite way to eat our garden-fresh tomatoes was sliced on a plate sprinkled with sugar. I know a lot of people who like eating tomatoes with a bit of salt and or pepper. I’ve never met anyone who eats tomatoes with sugar except Dad. While sliced tomatoes are always a great way to serve tomatoes, if you’re open to new ideas, this is an easy-peasy recipe for making a delectable appetizer or starter with vine-ripened tomatoes.
Bacon makes everything better!
This starter has all my favorite flavors, bacon, basil, and the zing of jalapeno pepper in a cream cheese and mayo mixture. Once again, mayonnaise is the secret ingredient to this enticing flavor profile. To keep this recipe super simple, cook the bacon in the microwave. It won’t heat up the kitchen, and, frankly, the microwave makes the crispiest bacon. It will take between 4-6 minutes to cook six slices. (See Cooking Bacon for tips and hacks.)
Crumble the crispy bacon by hand or, if you prefer, chop it with a knife. Most of the crumbled bacon will go into the stuffing, set aside about a tablespoon to use as a topping/garnish. If you want, you can use bacon bits instead of cooking the bacon. It’s all about keeping your stress on the down-low.
Prep the basil and pepper
The brightness of this starter comes from the fresh basil.
The easiest way to cut it is to roll it up like a cigarette and slice it crosswise and then lengthwise to make pieces rather than ribbons. If fresh basil isn’t an option, dried basil can be used (use two teaspoons). The zing of heat comes from minced jalapeno. I prefer just a hint of warmth, so I only use about a teaspoon. I can enjoy the flavor, but there isn’t any burn. If you like hot & spicy, add more or kick it up using a serrano pepper instead of a jalapeno. Use a sprinkle of crushed red pepper if fresh isn’t available.
Tomato tips and hacks
As this is a starter, it opts for petite tomatoes. Campari tomatoes are a perfect size, larger than cherry tomatoes but smaller and rounder than plum tomatoes. Their juiciness, high sugar, low acidity, and lack of mealiness (I’m not a fan of mealy tomatoes) is what makes them so desirable. There are very pretty! Cherry tomatoes can be for this recipe, as they are smaller, it requires twice the number. Cherry tomatoes are more of a one-bite starter, where Campari tomatoes are a little more substantial.
Slice the tops off the tomatoes and hollow out the insides by using a measuring teaspoon or a small fruit baller. You can save the juicy insides for making sauces or freeze for future use if you’re so inclined. I wasn’t! It’s “summertime, and the living is easy.” Depending on you much you value the presentation, you may want to slice off a tiny portion on the bottom to create a flat base to best display your creations. Set the scooped out tomatoes on a paper towel to drain while mixing up the cream cheese mixture.
The “secret ingredient”
The cream cheese will be much easier to work with if it’s softened to room temperature (it takes about 20 minutes on the counter.) If you didn’t do this, no worries. Place the unwrapped cream cheese (half a package) in a microwave-safe bowl and nook it for 10 seconds. While cream cheese by itself makes a good stuffing, combining it with my favorite “secret ingredient” makes it even better. Get out the mayo!! With a fork or whisk, combine the cream cheese and mayo. The taste combo of these two ingredients is delicious! Add the basil, crumbled bacon (reserving one tablespoon for the topping), jalapeno, and ground pepper. Oh, this is so good!!
Stuff the hollow tomatoes with the mixture using a small spoon. There should be enough to make a nice mound on each tomato. Garnish with the remaining bacon crumbles and a couple of twists of ground pepper. If you are out to impress, a bed of basil leaves is an excellent zhoosh! Enjoy!
Bacon Basil Bombs – Stuffed TomatoesCourse: StarterCuisine: AmericanDifficulty: Easy
Crispy bacon, bright basil, and a zing of jalapeno are combined with cream cheese and the “secret ingredient” (mayo) and stuffed in a juicy sweet tomato for the perfect starter to a summer cook-out, barbeque or potluck.
9 small Campari tomatoes or 18 large cherry tomatoes
4 oz. (1/2 pkg) cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup mayonnaise
6 slices cooked bacon, crumbled (divided)
3 tablespoons finely chopped basil leaves
1 teaspoon minced jalapeno pepper
- Prep: Cut tops off tomatoes; discard. Scoop out seeds. Drain tomatoes, cut sides down, on paper towels. Chop basil leaves and mince the jalapeno. Microwave the bacon until crispy and crumble, set aside a tablespoon for garnish.
- Mix cream cheese and mayo in a medium bowl until blended. Stir in bacon, ground pepper, jalapeno, and basil.
- Spoon cream cheese mixture into tomatoes just before serving; top with the remaining bacon crumbles. Sprinkle with black pepper.
- Tomato Tips: Slice off a tiny bit of the bottom of the tomato to create a base so they don’t roll. Use a measuring teaspoon or a small melon baller to scoop out the seeds from the tomatoes
- Basil: Dried basil can be substituted for fresh (use 2 teaspoons), but it won’t look as pretty
- Zhoosh it: Add salad (baby) shrimp or shredded crab.