Our Memorial Day appetizer: small pockets of goodness… and summer!

I think of my father every Memorial Day. Although he was never sent into combat, he did work in the military and had a dream to advance in the military ranks. This dream crashed when he was asked to join the Communist Party and he refused. He was expelled for this reason and spent his life longing for a return to the army (which never happened) and hoping his daughter would live a better life in freedom.

Back then, whenever there was a special occasion to celebrate, my mom and aunt would make the same appetizers: deviled eggs, chicken liver paté, eggplant salad, and cheese filled tomatoes. I posted about the first three already, so now it’s time to write about the fourth – a cheerful, summery and vibrant dish. After all, what else says “summer” better than ripe, ruby red, sweet and thirst-quenching tomatoes? 🙂 As a departure from my mom and aunt’s original recipe, I have decided to use roma tomatoes and mini sweet peppers for filling. I am a big fan of both!

Ingredients

1lb ricotta cheese

1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

1lb roma tomatoes – you will need some really firm tomatoes!

1lb mini sweet peppers

2 Persian cucumbers (or any similarly small cucumbers you can find)

1 medium carrot

2 green onions

Pinch red pepper flakes (optional)

Salt and pepper (to taste)

Chopped fresh parsley (for decoration)

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Use a good kitchen knife to cut off the tops of the tomatoes, then gently scoop out the insides using a small spoon. (You can refrigerate the inside pulp and juice and use in soups up to a few days later). When you are finished with this process turn the hollow tomatoes upside down and set them aside to “rest” for about 15 minutes, in order to get rid of the excess juice that is still lingering inside them.

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Repeat the process with the peppers.

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Finely shred the carrot and chop the green onions. Peel the cucumbers and then dice them.

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Mix the ricotta and feta cheese and add the chopped onions. Add salt and/or pepper to taste and stir the mixture with a spoon until the ingredients are well combined.

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Split the mixture in two. Add the diced cucumbers to the first and the shredded carrot and red pepper flakes (the latter are optional) to the second. Stir well in both cases.

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Using a small spoon, fill the hollow mini peppers with the carrot, onion and cheese mixture.

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Similarly, fill the hollow tomatoes with the cucumber, onion and cheese mixture. If there’s any leftover filling, you can store it in the refrigerator for 2-3 days.

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Serve the tomatoes and peppers chilled, with chopped parsley on top.

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This appetizer is light yet very satisfying. The diced cucumber gives the tomatoes a much-needed crunchy bite, while the subtle shredded carrot complements the persuasive flavor of the mini peppers beautifully. Furthermore, if you decide to use red pepper flakes in the pepper filling, these flakes will enhance the flavor combination even more, providing the crunchy mini peppers with an unexpected and delightful spicy kick.

Think of summer while tasting these small pockets of goodness – and enjoy! 🙂

ETA: You can also check out our 2015 Memorial Day menu here.


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