Herbed Tomatoes Au Gratin

Herbed Tomatoes Au Gratin

Do you spend much (or enough) time alone?  Do you make sure you have that delicious do-whatever-you-want time, with no one around to pull your attention anywhere in particular?

The day I began writing this entry was a heavenly day of freedom, not that I don’t like humans, just that I enjoy solitude whenever possible occasionally.

It was a deliciously long and luxurious winter day which began with lying in the morning sun on my living room floor while talking to long-distance girlfriends.  Then came a little (delightful) research on the computer, yoga practice, a breath meditation, and finally a long bath including singing in the tub.  About that time, I noticed my rumbling tummy….

Lunch ideas began with dreams of tomatoes.

Yes, it was the middle of winter.  Go figure.  It’s not like there was a garden overflowing with heirloom tomatoes just outside my window.  I don’t know what came over me.

Just to be fair, “what to do with tomatoes” all began because of the two huge tomatoes ripening on my counter.  All morning, I walked by them, pondering the possibilites.  Thinking about how  I might prepare them, I wandered into my pantry to retrieve something.  My eyes fell on a cookbook I love and I thought, “I’ll just open that up…..”

You know how one thing leads to another.  I opened the cookbook to a page about baked tomatoes of all things.

I love how this works.  Just start thinking of tomatoes, and then open the perfect cook book to the perfect page….

To begin with, this is a gorgeous side dish.  Secondly, it’s downright delicious, easy to prepare, and impressive to any reasonable set of taste buds.

This recipe is adapted from “Hudson Valley Mediterranean” by Laura Pensiero.  This is a wonderful cookbook, and I can’t sing her praises enough.

Here we go.

Herbed Tomatoes Au Gratin

Oven 450 degrees

Fresh Herbs
2 T. Extra Virgin Olive Oil, plus more for the baking pan
1-1/4 c. coarse and crusty bread crumbs (I used Ezekiel sprouted bread)
You can mix in 1-2 T. chopped parsley if you like.
Mix bread crumbs (and optional parsley) with Olive Oil and set aside.
Use more Olive Oil to grease a 9″ square casserole, or the equivalent.

1-1/2 pounds of tomatoes (2 huge or 3 large). Slice 1/2 to  3/4″ thick.
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
A handful or two of fresh baby spinach leaves
1/2 c. soft goat cheese
1/2 c. Asiago cheese, crumbled or broken
Putting It All Together
3 T. fresh chives, or a combination of fresh and dried herbs of your choice that go well with tomatoes.  I used fresh chives, parsley, thyme, and sage, all growing in pots on my window sill.
Assemble in layers.  Tomatoes, then salt and pepper, then herbs, then spinach leaves (not too many, mostly for color) then cheese and bread crumbs.  Then add two more layers,  finishing with bread crumbs on top.
Bake somewhere in the neighborhood of 15-20 minutes, until bubbly and slightly browned on top.

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