Cherry Tomato Gratin (Tis the season!)

Serves 4 as a side dish. It could also serve 4 as a main course with the right accompaniments.

Why this recipe. This is a very simple dish to prepare and one that is always met with enthusiasm at the table. If you need confidence that you can bring something stellar to the table -- start here.

In addition, this dish is great for entertaining, because it can work with your schedule. You can prepare it well in advance and serve it at room temperature or chilled. But you can also take it from the oven to the table with just a brief rest. I like to get things done in advance because I like to spend time with my guests. Therefore, I usually make this 1-2 hours in advance of when it is to be served. I let it rest on the counter until I need it to make its entrance at the table.

By the way, the reason this recipe came to be was the need to rapidly use pound after pound of cherry tomatoes and chilis from my friend Chris’ garden. I hope you have a similar dilemma each summer.

Time requirement: About 10-15 minutes preparation, 35-40 minutes in the oven, and 15 minutes to rest before serving.

What you will need:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

1 pound of cherry tomatoes, washed, dried, and cut in half.

3 tablespoons shallots chopped very fine.

1 garlic clove put through a garlic press.

1 large jalapeno pepper, about as long as your index finger, seeded and chopped finely. Or use another chili pepper that you like.

1 teaspoon kosher salt.

1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper.

¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil.

4 sprigs of parsley.

1 dozen fresh basil leaves chopped.

2 cups fresh breadcrumbs (about 4 slices of white bread will make 2 cups of bread crumbs).

2 ounces of imported gruyere cheese cut into 8 pieces.

Preparation:

In a large bowl combine the cherry tomatoes, shallot, garlic, jalapeno pepper, salt, pepper and ¼ cup olive oil. Mix well and set aside.

Remove the parsley leaves from the stems. Discard the stems. Chop the parsley and basil leaves. Add half the chopped parsley and basil to the tomato mixture, mix well and pour into an oven proof dish, such as a 9” ceramic pie pan or something similar.

Place the remaining basil and parsley mixture in the bowl of a food processor along with four slices of white bread (torn into pieces) and the cheese. Now process about 15 seconds to make bread crumbs. Add the 2 tablespoons of oil olive and process for a few more seconds. Spread the seasoned bread crumbs atop the tomatoes. Spread the bread crumbs evenly across the top of the tomatoes to make a “crust.”

Place the dish in the oven and bake for 35-40 minutes. It is done when the bread crumbs are golden brown, and you can see the tomatoes underneath bubbling happily!

Remove from the oven and let it rest 15 minutes before serving. You can serve this hot, room temperature, or chilled

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