Whenever I’m making homemade croutons for a recipe, I always make extra. Homemade croutons are great on salads and soups or If you’re like me, just as a snack. Today, I’ll be using two loaves of, an Artisanal bread, Tusacan Garlic Ciabatta to make my croutons. It’s just as easy to make 1 loaf into croutons as it is two, so why not?
Let’s talk about the fresh basil I’m going to add to my Tomato Gratin. Normally I’d sprinkle to fresh basil all over the top of the whole gratin while it nice and hot. I love the smell fresh basil releases over hot dishes, but in this case, because there are only the two of us eating this dish, I’m only going to sprinkle the chopped basil over the hot Tomato Gratin once it’s served. I mean, would look beautiful if I were to add it to the pan now. Fresh basil’s vibrant green color would add so much to the presentation of this dish, but as it sits the basil will turn dark in color, not a good look.
It’s really important to chop the basil at the last minute because it will turn dark and discolor.
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 25 minutes
Yields: 4 servings
Equipment: chef’s knife, bread (serrated) knife, paring knife, spatula, 1 (12-inch) sauté pan, 1 large mixing bowl, 2 rimmed baking sheet pans, 1 large bowl
Ingredients For Croutons:
1/2 cup of olive oil
2 loaves of Tuscan Ciabatta bread, cut into a 3/4 inch dice
2 tablespoons of Kosher salt
2 teaspoons of freshly ground black pepper
Ingredients For Tomato Gratin:
3 pounds of really good ripe tomatoes, cores removed, 3/4 inch dice
2 tablespoons of *E.V.O.O.
3 1/2 cups of Tuscan garlic Ciabatta bread (substitute a good Artisanal bread), toasted, 3/4 inch dice
5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced (if garlilc cloves are large, use 3)
2 teaspoons of granulated sugar
1 tablespoon of Kosher salt
1 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup of Percorino Remano cheese, freshly grated
2 heaping tablespoon of fresh basil, stems removed and chopped
Note: Prep the bread, garlic, and tomatoes before starting this dish.
Preheat oven to 350-degrees F.
Directions For Croutons:
Dice the Ciabatta into 3/4 inch cubes. Divide evenly the bread cubes onto 2 rimmed baking sheet pans. Add 1/4 cup of olive oil, 1 tablespoon of Kosher salt, and 1 teaspoon of fresh ground black pepper to each tray. Toss to coat spreading the cubes out into one even layer on each tray. Bake until golden brown and the bread cubes have the texture of crunchy croutons, 18 to 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside. Do not turn the oven off just yet.
In the meantime, add olive oil to a sautè pan. Turn the heat to medium low heat add the sliced garlic. Cook the slices of garlic, stirring frequently, until they brown slightly around the edges, and you can smell the garlic aroma, around 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, sugar, Kosher salt, and fresh ground black pepper, stir to combine. Increase the heat to medium-high, cook for 8 to 10 minutes until the tomatoes release their juices and they begin to concentrate their flavor. Turn the heat off.
Add in the 3 1/2 cups of croutons. Mix in the croutons until all they are coated really well. Press down slightly with a spatula to submerge all those croutons allowing them to soak up all the tomato juices. This dish is going to look somewhat like a savory bread pudding.
Scatter the remaing croutons over the top. Again, slighlty press those down just a little bit so they don’t move around during the cooking process. These will bake up nice and crunchy giving another layer of texture to the top of the gratin. Add the freshly grated Pecorino Remano evenly all over the top.
Transfer the pan to the oven to bake for 40 to 45 minutes. After 30 minutes go in a loosen the edges with a spatula to loosen any crust and allow any juices to come up.
After around 45 minutes, transfer the pan to a cooling rack. The gratin will still be slightly jiggly when you move the pan. You want to let it rest so the gratin sets up, 5 to 10 minutes.
As I talked about in my intro, I’m not adding the fresh basil to the entire gratin because there are only two of us eating this today and I’m not sure if we’ll be able to eat it all. Once you chop fresh basil it will discolor and adding to the entire dish is not a good idea. Instead I’m going to be sprinkling the fresh basil over our individual servings. If you’re planning to serve this whole pan immediately then add 2 tablespoons of freshly chopped basil over the top of the tomato gratin.
There you have it, my Tomato Gratin.
*E.V.O.O. is an acronym for Extra Virgin Olive Oil.