The other day reminiscing about my mom and her bridge club – a group of ladies who met weekly for gossip and a couple of games of bridge – I got to thinking about the table she sat for the accompanying lunch. First of all, the bridge tables were covered in matching cloths and there was a small glass ashtray and a cigarette holder (usually a small glass top hat) and pretty matches at 2 opposing corners. These were the days when emancipated women smoked discretely and, occasionally, took a little tipple after the game. The lunch table was always beautifully set with the tableware that was used solely for entertaining and a lovely bouquet in the center with name plates and a little gift at each place setting. My absolute favorites were the little sugar cubes with flower decoration that she served with coffee and tea. I thought it all pretty classy! Looking back, I have no idea how she did all this as, unlike all of the other women, she was a widow who worked 6 days a week.
This is, I know, a very long introduction to the lunch that I made in remembrance of mom’s bridge club. I would normally just pile the stuffing into the tomatoes but a first-class bridge lady would definitely add a little garní. I did zip up the dressing a bit – my mom would have just used mayonnaise and, probably, chicken. I used shrimp ‘cause I was cleaning out the freezer and they were there.
Tomatoes Stuffed with Shrimp Salad
6 large ripe tomatoes
1½ pounds cooked shrimp, shells and tails removed
¼ cup finely diced sweet onion, such as Vidalia
¼ cup finely diced celery
1 cup homemade mayonnaise (recipe follows) or Hellman’s if it pleases you
½ cup mango chutney, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest
White pepper to taste
2 teaspoons fresh mint julienne
1 teaspoon fresh tarragon leaves
Six handfuls fresh garden lettuce
6 sprigs fresh mint, optional
Line a plate or baking pan large enough to hold the 6 tomatoes with a thick layer of paper towel. Set aside.
Using a sharp knife, carefully cut off a ¼-inch slice from the stem end. Using a small spoon or melon baller, carefully scoop out the seeds and pulp from each tomato. Lightly salt the interiors, turn upside down on the paper towel-lined plate or baking pan, and refrigerate for about 1 hour or until well-chilled and most of the juices have run out.
While the tomatoes are chilling, prepare the salad.
If you want to garnish the finished tomatoes with a piece of shrimp, carefully cut 3 shrimp in half, lengthwise. Set them aside.
Cut the remaining shrimp into pieces and place them in a bowl. Add the onion and celery, tossing to combine.
Mix the mayonnaise, chutney, lime juice, and orange zest together. Pour about half of the dressing over the shrimp and toss to combine. Continue adding dressing until you have the consistency you desire. Season with salt and white pepper to taste.
Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
When ready to serve, remove the tomatoes from the fridge. Turn the tomatoes right side up.
Remove the shrimp from the fridge and stir in the mint and tarragon. (You can do this when you first make the salad but, although the herbs will more add more of their distinct flavor they will also wilt considerably. I prefer the fresh taste that results when they are added at the end.)
Mound an equal portion of the salad into each tomato.
Place a small handful of lettuce on each of six luncheon plates. Settle a stuffed tomato in the center of each plate and, if desired, garnish with a shrimp slice and sprig of fresh mint.