One summer…a pre-kid summer…Jay and I joined a CSA and got a box of fresh summer produce each week. We were all giddy and idealistic at the beginning, but with just the two of us it got pretty overwhelming. We had tomatoes for days. We had a refrigerator shelf dedicated to eggplant. There were POUNDS of okra. I think at the time we would have been happier spending those dollars at the farmer’s market so we could have more variety (read: a lot less okra). With all that we’ve had going on lately, going to the farmer’s market has seemed less “romantic weekend activity” and more “one more errand.” I think the right CSA could lure me in again!
We did have some culinary adventures that summer, and by far the best thing to come out of our boxes was this rustic tomato bake. It’s a recipe from Ina Garten, and it’s intensely delicious. The flavors somehow all mingle together perfectly and stand out at the same time. You can really taste the garlic, the basil, the tomatoes, the Parmesan – but it also reminds me of pizza in a weird way, like an essence-of-pizza kind of way. Umm, don’t you want to try it now? Ahem. Onward.
Cubes of bread (French, Italian, a baguette…) get toasted in olive oil in a big skillet, then mixed with all your chopped tomatoes and garlic. Sugar, salt and pepper, and fresh basil brighten things up.
My girl was the Parmesan sprinkler. She took her task very seriously.
She also peeled the corn that was our other side dish. Best kid job ever!
This tomato bake smells incredible while it’s in the oven. We had it with corn on the cob and pan-seared fish, and it all tasted exactly like summer. And I’m not even joking when I tell you that we almost finished the whole dish, because both kids inhaled it! I was shocked…except also not, because it’s just that good (and, you know, kind of pizza-esque).Print
- 2-3 cups bread (Italian, French, or a baguette – the crustier the better), cut into 1″ cubes
- 3 Tablespoons olive oil
- 2.5 lbs tomatoes (Ina recommends plum tomatoes, but I’ve never used them), cut into 1″ dice
- 3 cloves garlic, minced (about 1 Tablespoon)
- 2 Tablespoons sugar
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 1/2 cup thinly sliced basil leaves, lightly packed
- 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- Preheat oven to 350. Heat olive oil in a large (12-inch) skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Add bread cubes and stir, tossing to coat them with oil. Toast for about 5 minutes, until lightly and evenly browned.
- Add tomatoes, garlic, sugar, salt and pepper to toasted bread. Cook and stir for 5 minutes more, then stir in basil leaves.
- Immediately transfer the tomato mixture to a baking dish (see note below) and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Bake 35-40 minutes, until tomatoes are bubbly and the cheese is brown.
- Serve hot or warm as a dinner side dish, or with a crispy fried egg for brunch!
The original recipe calls for 2 cups of bread, but since I have always used tomatoes that are juicier than plum tomatoes, I use 3 cups to balance out the increased liquid.
That said – even though you toast the bread, it’s soggy after baking. But don’t let that scare you away! Kind of like when you eat French onion soup…you’re eating soggy bread, but it’s okay, it’s cool, just don’t overthink it. You could try draining the tomatoes if you would prefer the finished dish to be drier, or go with the plum tomatoes. I think a denser bread helps, too.
I typically make this in an 11×7 baking dish, but an 8×8 pan works as well. I’d like to try leaving it an ovenproof skillet, too, but haven’t yet.
Recipe is slightly adapted from Ina Garten’s Scalloped Tomatoes