Friday, August 2, 2013

Tomato Crumble

Last Year's Post: Smoky Peanut Mole with Pork Tenderloin
Two Years Ago:  Chicken Pasta Salad with Fresh Herbs and Corn
More Tomato Recipes: The Best Salsa EverGazpachoTomato Olive MeltsRoasted Tomatoes

The very idea of a tomato crumble is intriguing, don't you think?  Most of us are familiar with fruit crumbles that are mixed with sugar and topped with a sweet streusel before baking.  In this version, ripe tomatoes are tossed with herbs and topped with a savory breadcrumb-parmesan-pine nut mixture before baking.  I made a trip to my local farmer's market this week and found beautiful tomatoes and herbs so I immediately thought of this recipe.

I first tasted it when The Lawyer's sister Marne made it for a family gathering.  It really caught my attention because baking intensifies the tomatoes' flavor and melds it with the herbs so it literally explodes with flavor.  It makes a lot so it's great for family gatherings or pot luck dinners but I would also encourage you to make it any night as a side dish to go with grilled steak, chicken, lamb, or even halibut or swordfish.  I served it with seared tuna and fresh corn on the cob and it was a total feast just for the two of us. It would also make a great vegetarian dish with the addition of a little tofu and served over rice or couscous. Leftovers?  Excellent!  Here are just a few of the many ways you can use them.
  • Toss with hot cooked pasta for dinner, or cooked and cooled pasta for a salad.  Add any other leftovers or cheese of choice.
  • Use as a filling for an omelet.
  • Use as a topping for toasted french bread slices along with some black olives to make bruschetta.
  • Make a tart or quiche using the tomatoes as a main ingredient.
  • Pizza!
  • Layer on french bread with sliced zucchini and other favorite vegetables; top with a slice of mozzarella and broil until browned for an open-face veggie melt.
  • Re-warm gently and use as a chunky topping for meat.
  • Make a contemporary twist on a BLT by using the baked tomatoes in place of fresh and arugula in place of lettuce along with bacon, then grill on a griddle or panini press until warm and crisp.
  • Top baked potatoes with the tomatoes and a little sour cream for stuffed baked potatoes.
  • Add to a breakfast sandwich with eggs and cheese on an English Muffin.
You get the idea.  Leftovers are like gold in this case.

The crumble is very easy to make.  You start by coring the tomatoes and cutting them in half, then gently squeezing them and poking out the seeds with your fingers.  I also removed the lighter-colored, more dense pieces connected to the seeds.  Here's a visual to show you what I removed.

Then you cut the tomatoes into chunks and let them drain 20 minutes in a colander to remove some of their water.

They'll still release water when they bake, which is no big deal - just use a slotted spoon to serve the tomatoes if you don't want as much liquid.  But I would definitely save the liquid with your leftovers, so you can use it depending on the next dish you make.

While the tomatoes drain you prepare the breadcrumb-parmesan-pine nut and butter topping.  Although the recipe calls for fresh breadcrumbs, I think using panko crumbs would work equally well and might even be a little crunchier.  After the tomatoes drain you simply place them in the baking dish, sprinkle in the herbs and toss them around, then top with the breadcrumb mixture and bake.  It's a great and different way to use some of the fresh tomatoes from your garden or the farmers market at this time of the year.

Tomato Crumble
Serves 6 to 8

Olive oil
2 1/2 to 3 lb. summer tomatoes
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil, plus sprigs for garnish (optional)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary, plus sprigs for garnish (optional)
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup fresh bread crumbs, made from day-old peasant white bread, including the crust
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, preferably Parmigiano Reggiano
1/2 cup pine nuts
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Arrange a rack at center position and preheat oven to 375 degrees. Oil a shallow 2-quart baking dish and set aside.

Stem tomatoes, then halve horizontally. Squeeze halves lightly to extract juice, then scoop out seeds. Cut into 1-inch chunks and drain chunks in a colander for 20 minutes. (The amount of liquid that drains from the tomatoes will vary depending on the variety of tomato.)

Spread the tomato chunks in the baking dish. Add the basil, rosemary, salt and several grinds of black pepper, and toss.

Mix together the bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese and pine nuts in a large bowl. Add the butter and mix well with your hands until mixture is crumbly. Spread the mixture on top of the tomatoes.

Bake the tomato crumble until the topping is crisp and slightly browned and juices are bubbling, 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from the oven. Do not worry if there is liquid in the pan; you can spoon it out or leave as is. (The crumble can be prepared 3 hours ahead. Cool and leave at room temperature. Reheat in a preheated 350-degree oven until warm, about 15 minutes or longer.)

Garnish the center of the crumble with fresh basil and rosemary sprigs (optional).

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