January, the unofficial month in America for diets and cleanses and general low-fat eating, might seem like an odd time to cook a bunch of recipes from Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Especially if you’re someone who, for example, ate an average of 6 to 8 cookies at day for the last two weeks. (But who’s keeping exact count?)
Contrary to some beliefs, not ever recipe in MTAOFC involves tons of butter, heavy cream, or fatty meats. You just have to dig a bit to find the recipes from Provence, where olive oil is used more profusely. Soup au pistou, one of the quintessential Provençal soup, is pretty much all vegetables and beans. Ratatouille is another all-vegetarian dish using olive oil, and you can really use half the oil that Julia Child calls for. Or salade niçoise, or bouillabaisse, or saffron-scented garlic soup.
I was looking for a light-ish vegetable side to go with the Belgian beef and onion stew I made the day before, and found the recipe for Tomatoes Provençal. It may also be one of the quickest recipes, aside from the egg recipes, in the whole book. There was hardly any hands-on time. You scoop out the seeds from the tomato halves, stuff them with a bread crumb, garlic, and herb mixture, and bake them in the oven for 1o or 15 minutes. It was almost too pretty to be a weekday lunch side for one person. Then again, now I have an easy side in the recipe file for impromptu dinner parties.
Serves 6 as an appetizer
- 6 firm, ripe red tomatoes, about 3 inches in diameter
- Salt and pepper for sprinkling over tomatoes
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 tablespoons minced shallots or scallions
- 1/4 cup minced fresh basil and parsley, or parsley only
- 1 pinch fresh or dried thyme
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Big pinch black pepper
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 cup fresh white bread crumbs
- Preheat the oven to 400ºF.
- Remove any tomato stems, then cut the tomatoes in half horizontally. Carefully scoop out the juice and seeds. Sprinkle the top of the tomatoes halves lightly with salt and pepper.
- In a mixing bowl, mix together the garlic, shallots, basil, parsley, thyme, salt, pepper, olive oil, and bread crumbs. Fill each tomato with one or two spoonfuls of the bread crumb mixture. Top of each tomato with a few drops of olive oil, to keep the stuffing slightly wet and to aid in browning.
- Arrange the tomatoes in a roasting pan without crowding them. (Tomatoes can be prepared up to this point and set aside until you’re ready to bake them.)
- When you’re ready to bake the tomatoes, place the roasting pan in the oven and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until the tomatoes are tender but still holding their shape and the bread crumb filling has lightly browned on top. Transfer to a platter and serve.
Adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking (1961) by Julia Child
Other Provençal dishes:
Bouilliabaisse from Fork Spoon Knife
Pissaladière from One Tribe Gourmet
Provençal Seafood Bisque from Simply Recipes
Provençal Filled Zucchini from Tartlette
Rustic Provençal Vegetable Casserole from Blue Egg Kitchen