Provençal Tomatoes

Nothing beats fresh tomatoes in season. Usually I just slice them, salt them, drain them, and eat them straight up with avocado and basil and a drizzle of olive oil. (My sister-in-law Janis introduced me to this perfect lunch one summer vacation.)

But even perfection gets boring after a while, and so, in the interest of variety, here is a wonderful recipe to round out a late tomato-season supper. It is very Provençal, meaning that it is rich with the signature produce of the south of France: tomatoes, garlic, basil, and olive oil. You can salt and drain the tomatoes and make the topping ahead and then just assemble and bake at the last minute.

Serves 6

3 large tomatoes
Approximately 1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
2 large basil leaves, finely chopped
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 1/4 cups fresh bread crumbs
Additional salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Cut each tomato in half crosswise. Gently squeeze the tomato halves to remove the excess liquid and spoon out the seeds. Sprinkle the tops with the 1 teaspoon kosher salt, turn upside down on paper towels and leave until much of the excess liquid has been drawn out, 30 to 60 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375ºF and lightly oil a baking dish large enough to hold the tomatoes in a flat layer. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute longer. Stir in the parsley, basil, thyme and bread crumbs. Season with salt and pepper.

Arrange the tomatoes cut side up in the oiled baking dish. Divide the bread crumb mixture over the tomatoes and spread out as evenly as possible. Sprinkle with cheese and drizzle with the remaining olive oil. Bake until browned and crisp on top, about 20 minutes.
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