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scalloped tomatoes

November 20, 2010

Thursday night, Amanda had a dinner party for something school-related.  She promised Emily she’d invite her over for leftovers on Friday night.   But there were no scalloped tomatoes left, and Amanda really, really, really wanted to eat more of them.  So for a small addendum to our leftovers party menu, we whipped up another batch and changed the recipe a bit.

They were just that good, if we do say so ourselves.  Totally worth scrapping our plan of an effortless dinner between friends whose dinners are normally so happily filled with effort.  Whatever, we had to go to the grocery store anyway in anticipation of our next big cooking extravaganza on Sunday.

So these tomatoes – they’re divine.  They have the rich taste of a casserole without nearly as many of the carbs and without any of the heaviness.  And right when we’re about to have a holiday week filled with dishes that remind us of fall, this dish is a perfect reminder that summer exists, even if our only mementos of its last visit are these tasty, tasty tomatoes.

Scalloped Tomatoes

adapted from Smitten Kitchen:

Ingredients:

  • 3 TBSP olive oil
  • 1 french (sourdough) boule or 2 baguettes (really, 1.25 baguettes but they don’t sell them that way)
  • 2 1/2 lb plum tomatoes (preferably Roma)
  • 3 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 TBSP sugar
  • 2 tsp coarse salt (or normal salt, don’t buy coarse salt just for this dish, it’s not that crucial)
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup finely grated Romano cheese (Parmesan will do, it’s what the original calls for, but Amanda had Romano around and loves it)
  • 1/3 cup bread crumbs if you don’t have a food processor (this part will become clear when you read through the recipe directions)

Step 1: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Forgive us if we often forget to mention preheating at the beginning of the recipe – we are both blessed with gas stoves.

Step 2: Cut the boule into slices about 1/2 inch thick. If you’re unable to find a nice round boule, make 1/2 inch slices out of one of the baguettes you’re using and cut similar slices out of about 1/4 of a second baguette (and then use the uncut portion for normal baguette-like purposes, e.g., as an edible plate for Nutella).  Amanda had a boule the first time she made this, and it was easier to use because it had to be cut into fewer slices, but other than that, there was no appreciable difference.

Step 3: Tear the filling out of each of your bread slices. The recipe we were basing this off of tells you to dice the bread into 1/2 inch cubes, but who can dice bread unless it’s rock hard?  So just use your hands to tear and aim for nice little chunks of bread that are roughly the same size as a 1/2 inch cube.  Or even a bit smaller, which is probably what we had since Amanda’s spatial reasoning skills are not exactly stellar. Now you’re left with a bunch of bread crust.  And what’s the 2nd rule of our little club?  Waste nothing.  A great use for these crusts is to make fresh bread crumbs, which Amanda thought would actually be a great addition to the top of this dish, so . . .

Step 4: Put your bread crusts in the food processor. Unless you have a monster food processor, in which case we’re jealous, you will probably have to work in batches.  Don’t worry, you’re not seeing things – this picture is from the boule crusts, even though everything else is from the second incarnation of the scalloped tomatoes.  Process until it looks like bread crumbs, although they will be and should be coarser than bread crumbs you’d buy in the store.

For example, the photo to the right is our bread crumbs – fresh, and much more versatile than that fine-grain stuff you get in the store (since if you need it finer, you can just process it more when you decide to use it).  Be warned, though, that your food processor will have to work hard to make these bread crumbs.  It’s not like chopping basil or something.  It’s a full day’s work for that little sucker, so you might want to give it a few breaks now and then during the process, so that it doesn’t get mad at you.

Step 5: Dice the tomatoes.  Don’t worry too much about seeding them, but try not to include too many of the seeds.  They should be in roughly 1/3 to 1/2 inch diced pieces.  After you dice each tomato, put the pieces in a medium to large size mixing bowl.  Toss them with the sugar, salt, pepper, basil, and the minced cloves of garlic – for efficiency’s sake, just mince the garlic right into the tomato mixture.


Step 6: Pour the 3 TBSP of olive oil into a large, deep saute pan or skillet over medium-high heat.  Throw in the bread pieces (the inside pieces, not the crusts/bread crumbs) and toss with the olive oil until they’re all nice and well-coated.  Toast the bread like this for a minute or two, stirring occasionally – it won’t take on much color, but it’ll be slightly more dry and crouton-like.

Step 7: Toss the tomato mixture, garlic, sugar and salt in with the bread and continue to saute over medium-high heat, stirring regularly, for about 5 minutes.  The tomato mixture will start to get a bit mushy and will smell delicious.  Mix in the basil.

 

Step 8: Put the tomato and bread mixture into a 1 and 1/2 quart casserole dish.  The recipe calls for a shallower dish than what Amanda used the first time, but she liked it this way, so we did it again.  The mixture just managed to fit in the dish, which Amanda thinks makes it prettier on the table, but y’know. . .  feel free to disagree.   It’s a free country and all that jazz.

Step 9: Sprinkle the mixture with the cheese and 1/3 cup of the bread crumbs you’ve made (or of store-bought bread crumbs).   The measurements here aren’t exact – just make sure the top of the dish is evenly (but not too thickly) coated with cheese and then evenly coated with bread crumbs.  Feel free to nix the bread crumbs, which make for a nice crunchy top, if you just want a dish that’s completely soft in texture (it’s delicious that way, too, but Amanda likes contrast. . . )

Step 10: Put the dish on the middle rack of the oven and cook  for 35 to 40 minutes.  The dish is done when the top is nice and browned and the tomatoes are bubbling.  And by bubbling, we mean BUBBLING.

Yum.   After it’s cooled for a few minutes, serve it to your guests.  Or, you know, just to you and one of your best friends, in which case you’ll have lots of yummy leftovers.   It tasted great with some leftover mushroom lasagna.

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