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The Recipe of the Week from The Happy Chef: Tomatoes Stuffed With Goat Cheese

By Leigh Sackett

Last weekend my children made my heart leap for joy and fear as I watched them traverse the rocky and steep trails of Grayson Highlands State Park as if they were a pair of mountain goats. In fact, my two young children ages 7 and 8 almost made the hike to the top of Mount Rogers; the tallest mountain in VA but the youngest finally gave out at 5,500 feet on the summit of Pine Mountain. I was so proud and impressed by their zeal over the challenge of hiking such large mountains but with the campgrounds where we started being at 4,000 feet we were way over half way there to begin with . . . But you have to start somewhere. Maybe that is God speaking to us through His immense mountains – “you have to start somewhere.”  The spirit of such a uniquely breathtaking piece of earth makes it impossible not to wonder about the great God that has forged such a creation. Grayson has an incredible juxtaposition of awesome beauty revealed in a harsh environment. It is expressed all around, in all you see from the rapid changes in weather to the perfect pines and rhododendron growing in fields of sparse vegetation to the gentle wild ponies living amongst huge jagged rock outcroppings. It is God alive – gentle and powerful, harsh and beautiful, unexpected yet all-knowing, perfect and awe-inspiring; all these things all at once – SO GREAT, much greater than Mount Rogers. Yet I catch a glimpse of Him in that mountain as my son says, “mom, those clouds look like Jesus on the cross,” and they did. If God made all this…those mountains, my children and me and somehow He makes us all fit together and work – even gentle ponies on jagged rocks – then I should be able to trust Him fully. So if you need some answers, some peace, some therapy or just need to be filled with wonder and reminded that you are small and He is Great, visit Grayson County – God abides. This recipe is to honor my mountain goat children who teach me how to live.

6 medium tomatoes, ripe

4 teaspoons unsalted butter

1 1/2 tablespoons shallots, minced

2 teaspoons garlic, minced

1 1/2 tablespoons flour

1/3 cup half-and-half

1 tablespoon dry sherry

1/2 cup fresh, soft cream cheese, goat cheese or marscapone

2 eggs, separated

3 tbsp chives, minced

2 tsp fresh savory or tarragon, minced

salt

freshly ground white pepper

3 cups mixed baby greens

1/4 cup vinaigrette

basil oil

sea salt, to taste

-Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

-Slice tops off the tomatoes and remove seeds and pulp. Sprinkle the insides with salt and drain tomatoes on paper towels upside-down.

-In a saucepan, melt the butter. Saute shallots and garlic and until soft but do not brown.

-Stir in flour and continue to cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring continuously. Add the half-and-half and sherry, stirring for 3 minutes longer until the mixture is smooth.

-Transfer to a bowl and allow to cool 5-7 minutes. Whisk in goat cheese, egg yolks, and seasonings.

-In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until they hold stiff peaks. Temper the eggs by stirring 1/4 of the whites into the cheese mixture. Carefully fold in the remaining whites.

-Spoon the souffle mixture into the tomato shells, mounding slightly.

-Place the tomatoes, shoulder to shoulder, in a lightly oiled baking or casserole dish.

-Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until the tops are lightly puffed and browned.

-Serve the hot tomatoes on a bed of greens. Top with 1/4 cup vinaigrette and a dash of white pepper and basil oil.

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