This isn’t my own recipe, not exactly. Back in the 1980s, I think it was, Sunset Magazine had an article in which they interviewed home French cooks – that is, ordinary French people who cooked at home. Sunset visited their kitchens and got some of their recipes. This was one of the recipes, which I took and ran with, adding a shitload more garlic and parsley. May I immodestly say that everyone who has tasted this has loved it.
You need tomatoes, obviously. It would be ideal to have summer vine-ripened tomatoes out of your own garden, but I have found that Roma tomatoes are an excellent substitute the rest of the year. I figure on minimum two whole tomatoes per person – the leftovers are divine, if there are any.
Cut the tomatoes in half. With your finger, poke into the seed pockets and remove as many seeds and gel as you can. (This is especially important if you do happen to have juicy ripe Beefsteaks or other non-paste tomato.) Put the tomatoes into a baking dish, cut side up.
Now you need bread crumbs, garlic, and parsley.
You can make bread crumbs by whirling slices of plain bread (white, wheat, sourdough, etc.) in a blender, or you can use panko (which is what I did here). Please do not use “seasoned breadcrumbs,” “Italian breadcrumbs,” or similar products; they have an artificial taste. Figure one tablespoon bread crumbs per tomato.
Mince one garlic clove per tomato (or substitute shallots, or use part garlic and part shallots).
Chop one tablespoon Italian flat-leaf parsley per tomato. (The curly parsley has no taste and is only good as a decoration.)
Combine all in a frying pan and add 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, or a combination of olive oil and butter.
Saute the mixture over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the bread crumbs are lightly browned. Do not let it burn! If the garlic burns, you will have to throw it all out and start over.
Evenly distribute the crumb mixture among the tomatoes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and drizzle more olive oil over.
Bake at 350 for 20 to 30 minutes. This is pretty flexible; it can bake at a higher or lower temperature if the oven needs to be used for something else at the same time. Just don’t burn the crumb topping.
Serve hot or at room temperature.
Obviously there are lots of possible variations: substitute other herbs for the parsley; vary the bread you make the crumbs from; add capers, chopped olives, cooked bacon, minced hot peppers, cheese – whatever you think would be good. You could also try this with other vegetables like zucchini boats or eggplant slices. In the summer, use yellow or orange tomatoes. Heirloom tomatoes prepared this way are simply out of this world.
This goes well with grilled steak or tri-tip, with creamy dishes like macaroni & cheese, alongside strongly flavored/ oily fish such as salmon, eel, bluefish, smoked oysters, etc., or as part of a vegan/vegetarian meal.