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Ligurian Stuffed Tomatoes with Olives, Anchovies and Basil
This delightful room-temperature treat is alive with the flavors of the Italian Riviera.

Ingredients:
12 small tomatoes (each about 2 inches in diameter and a scant 2 ounces)
salt and pepper to taste
about 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 large garlic cloves, very finely minced
1 1/2 cups fluffy cooked rice
2 tablespoons chicken stock
4 flat anchovy fillets
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/4 pound flavorful, brine-cured, large, green olives plus a few additional for garnish
1/4 cup very finely chopped fresh basil

Directions:
1. With a small, sharp knife, cut a wide hole in the stem end of each tomato, scooping out the interior. Cut as close as you can to the tomato skin on the side and on the bottom. Scoop out all remaining seeds and pulp (reserve for another use). You will be left with 12 hollowed-out tomato shells. Salt and pepper them well, turn them upside down, and reserve.
2. Place 2 teaspoons of the olive oil in a small saucepan over low heat. Add the minced garlic, and cook until it's just soft, about 3 minutes. (Do not allow the garlic to brown.)
3. Add the garlic to the rice in a mixing bowl. Combine well. Add the chicken stock and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil.
4. Sprinkle the anchovy fillets with the lemon juice, and mince them until they're practically a paste. Add to the rice mixture, blending well.
5. Smash the 1/4 pound of olives with the side of a cleaver, remove and discard the pits, and mince the olive flesh very fine. Add it to the rice mixture with 2 tablespoons of the chopped basil. Blend, and season the mixture extremely well with salt and pepper.
6. Stuff the hollowed-out tomatoes with the rice mixture. Serve immediately or, for maximum flavor, hold for 1 to 2 hours. When ready to serve, divide the tomatoes among 4 plates, placing 3 tomatoes at the center of each plate. Slice the remaining olives, and top the tomatoes with them decoratively. Top that with the remaining chopped basil leaves. Drizzle extra-virgin olive oil over and around the tomatoes.

This delightful room-temperature treat is alive with the flavors of the Italian Riviera. Great ingredients are the key to this dish. Find terrific small tomatoes, just bigger than cherry tomatoes, that are sold on the vine. Use long-grain rice that has been cooked to fluffy, each-grain-separate perfection. Choose brine-cured green olives with lots of flavor. Serve 3 tomatoes per person as an ideal summer first course, or serve 1 tomato each to 12 people as a very light starter for a dinner party. you'll find the rice a wonderful, starchy foil for the tomato, and the tomato a great enlivener of the rice. Gastronomic symbiosis at its best. Serves 4 as a first course