I am a wee bit obsessed with tomatoes. I grow my own, inside my apartment. I buy them in exorbitant amounts at the farmers market. I see heirloom varieties and I hyperventilate a bit as I frantically try to buy them all.
I might be smiling, but the eyes reveal the crazy. You should probably keep a good distance when heirloom tomatoes are involved. I've used elbows...
Most tomatoes at the grocery store have been engineered to be uniform in shape and colour, and to be durable. Unfortunately, taste was sacrificed in the process.
Heirloom tomatoes are naturally pollinated rather than engineered, and traditionally they are varieties that were handed down from generation to generation within a family.
They are variable in size, shape and colour, and are often imperfect - cracked, lumpy and sometimes rather homely looking. But they are delicious. And each variety has its own distinct flavour and texture. I love them.
My problem with heirloom tomatoes is that I think they are just too pretty to violate. I hesitate to make them into anything that doesn't put them on a pedestal, showcasing every last yellow and orange and beautiful stripey red...
On hot summer afternoons, I love to eat them simply - with a sprinkle of coarse salt and basil chiffonade.
The thing is, this week it turned autumn.
Last week I was swimming laps in an outdoor saltwater pool, and biking the seawall in a cute sundress.
This week I am favouring bubble baths over swimming pools. I've traded my sundresses for (un-matching) wool socks, knee-high rubber boots, and three bulky layers on top.
Temperature plummets, cuteness plummets. Apparently that happens.
And what's worse? My throat kinda tickles. I coughed a couple times.
All that to say: Fall has arrived. I don't quite approve. And I just want hot food.
Tomatoes with sea salt isn't happening anymore.
Bubbling, juicy tomato gratin with a golden crust of cheese? That is so happening.
This dish relies on the flavourful tomatoes to carry it. Simple ingredients: olive oil, garlic, sauteed fresh bread cubes, tomatoes, and good parmigiano cheese.
Though you can no longer admire their stripes, the heirlooms are done justice.
Heirloom Tomato Gratin
Adapted from Deb at Smitten Kitchen, who adapted it from Ina Garten.
1/4 cup olive oil
2 to 4 cloves garlic (about 2 tsp minced)
2 cups fresh bread cubes, about 5 ounces or 150 grams
2 to 2 1/2 lbs tomatoes, diced
1 tbsp sugar
1 to 2 tsp salt (taste and adjust)
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 cup basil leaves, thinly sliced
1 cup shredded parmigiano-reggiano
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Heat the olive oil In a large pan over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and saute 1 minute. Add bread cubes and saute until golden brown.
Meanwhile, combine all other ingredients, except parmigiano-reggiano, in a bowl and adjust salt and sugar to taste. Spread mixture in a buttered baking dish. Sprinkle cheese evenly over top. Bake 45 minutes or until tomatoes are bubbly and cheese is golden.