Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Scalloped Tomatoes

Ok, so you have a fabulous vegetable garden, and you now have a TON of tomatoes and you don't know what to do with them, right? Or you live in New Jersey, The Garden State, and you have fabulous gorgeous juicy ripe Jersey tomatoes from the farm market, and you're not sure what to make, right? Well THIS is the recipe for you. I saw Ina Garten making it on her show (which I love), and I thought "ok that's gotta be amazing." So I immediately went out, got the ingredients, threw them together, and I was right! Absolutely amazing! Whoda thunk that something so simple and inexpensive as tomatoes and bread could be so hearty and flavorful? It may not seem like much, but MAN is it good!! Between the freshness of the tomatoes and basil and the balance of the sweet sugar and the salty Parmesan cheese, I just loved it from the first bite.
 So use up your end-of-the-season garden tomatoes, or go to your local Jersey farmer's market and get some of our luscious gorgeous ripe Jersey tomatoes. You just HAVE to try this recipe. SO delicious!! Thanx again, Ina!

Good olive oil
2 cups (1/2-inch diced) bread from a French boule, crusts removed
16 plum tomatoes, cut 1/2-inch dice (about 2 1/2 pounds)
1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup julienned basil leaves, lightly packed
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.

Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large (12 inch) saute pan over medium heat. Add the bread cubes and stir to coat with the oil. Cook over medium to medium-high heat for 5 minutes, stirring often, until the cubes are evenly browned.

Meanwhile, combine the tomatoes, garlic, sugar, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. When the bread cubes are done, add the tomato mixture and continue to cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes. Off the heat, stir in the basil.

Pour the tomato mixture into a shallow (6 to 8 cup) baking dish. Sprinkle evenly with the Parmesan cheese and drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes until the top is browned and the tomatoes are bubbly. Serve hot or warm.

There's really no shortcut when it comes to browning the bread cubes in a pan. I tried spraying them with olive oil spray and baking them on a sheet pan, but they didn't come out the same. The became crunchy, yes, but they didn't brown and they didn't really hold up when it came to baking them with the tomato mixture.
For a little kick, I added a few pinches of crushed red pepper flakes. Not too much, just a little poke to go with the salty cheese and the sweet tomatoes. It really makes for a nice balance.

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