Good Tomatoes in Great Gratin
I found a Vanilla Ice CD on Ebay for $.01. I can’t think of anything else that costs so little, but apparently that’s all a recording of a past-his-prime pop star can command these days. The tomatoes hanging around the farmers market this time of year in the Northeast, if there are any at all, are not as pretty as they used to be. They are like old pop stars now past their primes, and upstaged by the fresh heirloom kale and beets now making their way up the charts. But I sometimes take pity on the little guys. And while I probably wouldn’t serve them plain (as I might in the summer), they have great potential that can be easily realized in the right dish.
A Tomato Gratin is a great way to welcome the cooler weather. Last year, I wrote about different ways to use leftover breadcrumbs in The Breadcrumb Diaries and one of my favorite uses to this day, is to use them to top gratins of different kinds.
This gratin is very simple to make and very easy to shop for. If you don’t see tomatoes at your market, try asking your farmer. She might have some in the truck waiting for a good home. If she does, grab 5 or six of them, preheat your oven, and get ready to play that funky music.
Preheat oven to 400
Heat a tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat in a small skillet
Chop a large onion and sauté for 10 minutes or until very soft
Slice 5 or 6 large tomatoes and set aside (these can be red, yellow, or even green)
Grate 4 ounces of firm, sharp, local cheese into a bowl and add ¾ cup of breadcrumbs
Drizzle olive oil into a 9 x 9 inch baking dish
Layer tomatoes along the bottom
Add a teaspoon of the sautéed onions
Sprinkle the first layer with a pinch of salt, a bit of pepper, and a tablespoon of the breadcrumb mixture
Drizzle with a bit more olive oil
Repeat until tomatoes reach the top of the pan
Use remaining breadcrumbs and cheese to top the tomatoes and finish with a final drizzle of olive oil
Bake gratin for 15 minutes
If top is not brown, increase heat to 450
Bake for another 10 minutes
Let cool for at least 20 minutes before serving