Tomatoes à la Provençale

Yesterday Mark brought home two lovely tomatoes, given to him by a co-worker. I suspect they will be the last tomatoes anyone around here will be trying to get rid of! I figured I’d better do something with them before Mark made his famous Tomato Surprise, and I decided on Tomatoes à la Provençale from The Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen by Donna Klein. I strayed slightly from her recipe, mostly because I didn’t have fresh basil or parsley. What I do have is a rambling shiso plant, so I made the unlikely substitution of shiso for basil and parsley. I’m guessing most of you are much more likely to have basil and parsley, so I’ll give you the original ingredients.

Tomatoes à la Provençale

6 large firm ripe tomatoes (about 8 ounces each)
regular salt
1/2 cup dry unseasoned bread crumbs
1/2 cup soft white bread crumbs (for 2 tomatoes, I tore up one slice of sourdough bread)
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (for 2 tomatoes, I chopped up 3 shiso leaves and added about 1/2 tsp dried parsley)
3 Tbsp finely chopped fresh basil (I used 1/2 tsp dry for 2 tomatoes)
3 Tbsp finely chopped shallots or white parts of scallions
2 cloved garlic, finely chopped
coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

(Note: I’m going to stray a bit from my usual protocol and just transcribe the original text, but since I can’t keep my mouth shut, I’ll add my additional thoughts in italics. I just wanted to make it clear which words are the author’s and which are mine.)

Slice off and discard 1/4 inch from the top and bottom of each tomato. The original recipe says to then cut each tomato in half crosswise, however, the brilliant Renae, who is more accustomed to making up than following recipes, managed to miss that line and instead went right onto the next step of scooping out the seeds. I cored each tomato, then dug out a little bit (I saved the bits other than the core for the soup I was also making). With a finger or the handle of a small spoon, scoop out the seeds.

Sprinkle the insides with a little regular salt and turn them upside down to drain on paper towels for about 15 minutes.

I also didn’t cut off an entire 1/4″ from the top nor especially the bottom; I just made sure they’d each sit upright.

Preheat the oven to 375F (190C). Lightly oil a shallow baking dish large enough to comfortably hold the tomato halves in a single layer. Set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, stir together the dry bread crumbs, soft bread crumbs, parsley, basil, the crazy addition of shiso if so inclined, shallots, and garlic. Season with coarse salt and pepper. Add half of the olive oil and toss well to thoroughly combine.

My sourdough slice, torn up.

Fill each tomato half (or, if you are a dummy and can’t read directions, each whole tomato) with about 2 tablespoons of the bread crumb mixture, patting it in and letting it mound up slightly in the center.
Arrange the tomato halves in the prepared baking dish. Drizzle evenly with the remaining olive oil.

Bake in the upper third of the oven for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the tomatoes are tender but not limp or mushy. Serve warm. Or let cool and refrigerate, covered, for a minimum of 3 hours and serve chilled, sprinkled with the optional parsley if desired.

These were good; Smark really liked his. He seemed quite disappointed I didn’t make the recipe up. The shiso actually worked quite well, and they worked fine as whole tomatoes instead of halves.

I served it with the Tomato-Lentil Soup with Brown Rice from the same book, but I’m not going to bother writing it up because honestly I liked my lentil soup better.

I did, however, use one of my own home-grown, fresh bay leaves for the first time, though! I’ve had the bay leaf plant for several years now, which is nothing short of amazing in terms of plant life in my hands. It’s been particularly happy now that it’s living right next to that crazy shiso plant, and is now big enough that I don’t feel bad robbing it of a leaf here and there.


  1. Cyn Said,

    October 17, 2008 @ 1:14 am

    Those look delicious! Far better than my sad stuffed tomato attempt.

  2. Jes Said,

    October 17, 2008 @ 7:27 pm

    Stuffed tomatoes are the best! Definitely something I miss come fall and winter.

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