scalloped tomatoes with croutons

Every now and then I find a recipe that I would do very bad things for. Recipes that could make me give up government secrets, slap my mama, or tell my boyfriend I was going to nap with him and then wait until he fell asleep so I could eat it all by myself. Which is what I did yesterday. Oh, you’re passing judgment? Perhaps you didn’t see the first picture. Here:

Let me back up a little bit. The other day, Preston was invited to a potluck dinner that I, unfortunately, could not attend. I do, however, love cooking for anyone and everyone so I decided to cook a new recipe using the tomatoes Preston’s sweet, punk-ass little brother had given us a few days prior. (Did I use the potluck cookbook I bought last week? No. I used the internet. I don’t know why I keep buying cookbooks.)

As I was dicing the tomatoes and mincing the garlic and tearing up the French bread, I suddenly realized, without even putting a bite of this dish into my mouth yet (or, hell, cooking it), that it would be one of my favorite recipes ever. Basil, olive oil, garlic, tomatoes, bread, cheese. What else is there in life? I had a similar epiphany when the dish was in the oven and I was cleaning up. I licked the wooden spoon I had stirred everything with before putting it in the sink and had one of those shut-my-eyes-and-say-“mmmm” moments you see on commercials. I immediately emailed the recipe to my friend Brianna along with a short note that basically said “it’s still in the oven but I can tell this is a recipe you’re going to love.”

I cooked it, I ate a serving, and I sent it away with Preston. When he returned with an almost-empty casserole dish, I was simultaneously pleased and disappointed. The next few days I pined for it, obsessed over it, thought of ways to cook it with other vegetables. And I didn’t stop until I put the ingredients on my shopping list for my visit to the farmer’s market on Saturday.

I must admit, I made the poor-girl version of this dish. Instead of using quality parmesan, I used half a cup of the pre-grated stuff from the green cylinder and half a cup of mozzarella. I made up for it with the most delicious homegrown tomatoes, juicy cherry tomatoes, and fresh basil, all stolen from the Stolte garden. But even if you only have access to grocery store roma tomatoes and dried basil, go buy them and make this dish. It’s perfect for summer evenings, eating outside and watching the sun set… or curled up on your couch watching Grey’s Anatomy. But it’s also likely that you don’t even make it to that point. You’re probably going to take it out of the oven and dig right in and burn your mouth. But that’s okay. Your tastebuds will still thank you.

Scalloped Tomatoes with Croutons, from Smitten Kitchen. Serves 6. My (slight) modifications are italicized.

do you see my overly-processed, store-brand, low-quality pre-grated parm hiding out back there? so ashamed.

3 tablespoons olive oil (reduced from original)
2 cups bread from a French boule, in a 1/2-inch dice, crusts removed (I used 3 cups of Italian bread, torn into 1/2- to 1-inch pieces)
2 1/2 pounds plum whatever good tomatoes you’ve got, cut into 1/2-inch dice (again, I used a mix of tomatoes and cherry tomatoes)
3 cloves garlic, minced (about 1 tablespoon) (I used more…)
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup thinly slivered basil leaves, lightly packed
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (I used 1/2 c. Parmesan and 1/2 c. mozzarella and really liked the melty-salty combination)

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high. Add the bread cubes and stir so that they are evenly coated with oil. Cook cubes, tossing frequently, until toasty on all sides, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine tomatoes, garlic, sugar, salt and pepper in a large bowl. When the bread cubes are toasted, add the tomato mixture and cook them together, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, and stir in the basil. Pour into a shallow (6 to 8 cup) baking dish and top with Parmesan cheese. Bake 35 to 40 minutes until the top is browned and the tomatoes are bubbly. Serve hot or warm with a big green salad, a bean salad and/or a poached egg.

Oh, and I promised I’d show you a picture of my oven. It’s in its early hundreds, the heat fluctuates, and there is ONE large burner and THREE small burners (why? Just to irritate me). But alas, it is my first kitchen, after all, and I don’t expect my landlady to spoil me with functioning appliances and functioning AC. Here’s The First Oven:


14 responses to “scalloped tomatoes with croutons

  1. Totally saw this on smittenkitchen the other day and almost wet my pants. I’ve really, really been wanting to try it out! Glad it worked out for you – looks delicious!

  2. Your such an incredible writer. So eloquent, so humourous, so highly entertainingly, and best of all, YOU COME WITH PICTOORS. Wonderful, glorious pictoors of food that I can only imagine taste even more wonderfuller and gloriouser in reality. If there are only 2 things I have been enjoying lately from the market, that would be fresh tomatoes and fresh basil. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’m in love with basil. 😀

    Oh, and I’m also all for making the poor-girl version of EVERYTHING. For example, I do this a lot with nuts. When recipes call for cashews or almonds (most of my bread recipes do, because they almost always have to be gluten-free) my favourite thing to do is nix that line and use sesame seeds instead. That or sunflower seeds. 😀 Hey, you can only do so much in a college kitchen with a college budget, right? (Although, apparently, YOU can do a LOT with a not-so-hot lookin’ oven with 1 large burner and THREE small burners.)

    xo Aletheia 😛


      And I was talking about WRITING TOO! Bloody poooo!

      I meant “you’re”.



  3. Hi, long-time reader, first-time commenter. I just want to tell you how much I enjoy your blog! I wish I were around to eat all this yummy food!

    I have told all my friends about your blog and they are all tittylated to read your next post. I hope you cook something soon (say, tofu pad Thai?).


    Hungry Roommate

  4. Hey Natalie,

    I had emailed and never heard back, but would you be at all interested in a feature on your blog and cooking on our website? We are undergoing a redesign and I would love to feature a story about you once it is finished (August).

    Drop me a line if you are!

    Thanks & keep up your amazing work!

  5. Pingback: baba ghanoush and rosemary flatbread | The First Kitchen·

  6. Natalie, I realized that yesterday was my first day of summer. And by that I mean my first day of absolute freedom…It’s ten past noon, I am in my pajamas, reading your blog, salivating over this tomato dish and feeling all giddy that my name made it into this lovely publication that *will* win the award of Austin’s Best Local Food Blog.

  7. P.S. Making this today 😀
    Thank goodness I don’t have to lie to my non-existent bf in order to eat it; instead, I will be fending off my mother…

  8. Pingback: it. is. cold. | The First Kitchen·

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