2 large, ripe, firm tomatoes
peppercorns at the ready (you will grind them fresh when it’s time)
1.5 cups Arborio rice
8 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided + some more for drizzling
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tbsp chopped Italian parsley leaves
2 tbsp chopped mint leaves (oh yes. stay with me.)
2 tbsp chopped basil leaves
4 anchovies, coarsely chopped (still here?)
3 tbsp bread crumbs (homemade are best, of course) toasted
Halve the tomatoes horizontally and, using your fingers, gently remove some of the seeds to create a series of hollow impressions. Salt the tomatoes and turn them upside down on paper towels to drain for 20 minutes.
Cook the rice in abundant salted boiling water, like pasta, until al dente. Drain well. (I usually strain it in a fine sieve and rinse it under cold water). Transfer the rice to a bowl. Toss the rice in 4 tablespoons of olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Let cool.
In a small bowl combine the garlic, herbs, and anchovies. Moisten with the remaining 4 tablespoons of olive oil. Lightly oil a baking dish large enough to contain the tomatoes without crowding them. Arrange the tomatoes in the baking dish. Stuff the herb mixture into the cavities of the tomatoes. Sprinkle the tomatoes with the bread crumbs and drizzle with a few drops of olive oil. Bake in a preheated 450 oven for 12 minutes, or until the tomatoes begin to soften but well before they lose their shape.
Divide the rice among 4 dinner plates, smoothing the rice so that it forms a bed for each tomato half. Remove the tomatoes from the oven and center a tomato half on each plate of rice.
Take a bite that mingles the hot tomato and the cold rice. Be delighted and amazed.
Serves 4. Unless you get greedy.
Freely adapted from the incomparable Viana La Place’s Verdura.