It's the height of tomato season on Long Island and this year's crop is incredibly good. The heat and the sun have given us not only red beauties but all kinds of heirloom varieties and lots of choices in cherry tomatoes--from yellow to red to purple. I really wait all year to make dishes that are meant for fresh tomatoes. Sorry, not even those "tomatoes on the vine" can compete with the flavor and goodness of a summer tomato...although I have to admit, grape tomatoes really can hit the spot. But of all the tomato dishes we've been gorging ourselves on, this recipe for a Tomato Bread Pudding is right at the top of our list.
Our dear friends Don and Jeff stayed with us just one night, having rented their house for a couple of weeks. They were heading back to their home in California so it seemed the perfect opportunity to have some of our mutually close friends to dinner. I would have to say that this dish was the hit of the dinner table, followed closely by Andrew's Banana and Peanut Butter Cream Pie. (I'll save that one for you too, it was outrageous!) In fact, it's so good, we've already heard from a couple of the guests wondering when we were going to blog it. So here it is.
It isn't really that involved but it does require time. The tomatoes have to roast, the Italian bread has to toast and the marvelous custard goes into the oven for about an hour. So allow yourself some time and reward yourself with an unforgettable use of tomatoes. The original recipe came from Gourmet (RIP). It used plum tomatoes but my farm stand has beautiful round red tomatoes that I substituted. If anything, I'd tuck even more tomatoes into the dish. And if they don't fit, they'd make a wonderful addition to a breakfast of bacon and eggs. Here's the recipe.
Recipe for Tomato Bread Pudding
3 pounds ripe red tomatoes, halved crosswise. Slice the bottoms to get rid of the stem and to help them sit up straight on the baking sheet.
1 1/2 teaspoon Herbes de Provence
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 head garlic, left whole
10 cups cubed (1-inch) country-style Italian bread (1 pound)
2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
8 large eggs
2 cups coarsely grated chilled Italian Fontina (9 ounces)
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Preheat oven to 400°F with rack in middle. Butter a 3-quart shallow baking dish (about 13 by 9 inches).
Arrange the tomatoes cut side up in a large, heavy 4 sided sheet pan. Sprinkle them with herbes de Provence, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.
Cut off and discard 1/4 inch from top of garlic head to expose cloves, then put on a sheet of foil and drizzle with 1 teaspoon oil. Wrap garlic in foil and roast in pan with tomatoes until tomatoes are browned but still juicy and garlic is soft, 50 to 60 minutes. (Leave oven on.)
Cool garlic to warm, then force through a medium-mesh sieve with a rubber spatula, discarding skins. Reserve purée
Toss bread cubes in a large bowl with remaining oil until coated, then spread out in a large 4-sided sheet pan and bake until golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool in pan.
Reduce oven temperature to 350°F.
Whisk together milk, cream, eggs, garlic purée, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Stir in cheeses. Transfer bread to baking dish, then pour egg mixture over bread and add tomatoes, pushing some down between bread cubes. Bake until firm to the touch and golden brown in spots, 50 to 60 minutes.
Serves 10. But be prepared for guests clamoring for seconds.