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Monday, April 20, 2009

Roasted Cherry Tomatoes with Ricotta-Basil Crust

Because we have a mixed marriage—half vegetarian, half carnivore—we’re always looking for ways to share a meal without necessarily sharing proteins. 

One solution is to make a sauce that can be used on anything from fish to chicken to tempeh; another is to center the meal around a protein-rich dish that Ruth can have for a main course and Tim can, if we wants, supplement with a piece of fish or meat. This allows us to enjoy the same flavors and feel like we’re sharing a meal, not standing on different sides of a culinary divide.

We adapted this recipe from the French volume of the Vegetarian Table series, written by Georgeanne Brennan. Cherry tomatoes can be expensive, so we only make this when there's been a garden windfall or we’ve been to Costco, where at the moment you can get two pounds for $4.99. We mooched the out-of-season basil off our friend Cynthia, because it was starting to turn and she knew she wouldn’t use it in time. The ricotta came from a recent Shop Rite special: $2.99 for two pounds. (We divided the cheese into one-cup servings and froze them so we could thaw them as needed.)

Recipe

2 T. olive oil
2 pounds cherry tomatoes
1 t. herbs de provence
salt and pepper


½ cup dry
breadcrumbs
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup chopped fresh basil
½ t. salt
generous grinding of black pepper

4 eggs
2 cups ricotta
¼ cup flour
½ cup cream (either light or heavy works fine)
1 t. salt 

1.      Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2.      Drizzle the olive oil on a baking sheet; add the tomatoes and roll them around to coat with oil. Sprinkle with the herbs, salt and pepper.

3.      Roast the tomatoes until they are soft, juicy, and slightly caramelized, about 30 minutes.

4.      Transfer the tomatoes to the bottom of a casserole.

5.      Combine the breadcrumbs, garlic, two-thirds of the basil, salt, and pepper. Spread half of this mixture over the tomatoes.

6.      In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and mix them with the ricotta, flour, cream, the rest of the basil, and salt.

7.      Pour the cheese mixture over the tomatoes in the casserole dish, then top with the remaining crumbs and drizzle with olive oil.

8.      Bake until the cheese is lightly browned, about 25 minutes.

Although this can be served hot, it’s a bit gloppy in that state (as our photo sorrily attests). It’s better to let it cool a bit so the cheese can firm up; room temperature is also fine. Serves about four for a main course, six to eight for a side dish.

3 comments:

  1. My wife and I cook up a similar recipe all summer long. But on those winter nights when we want that summer taste and lack the right tomatoes, we open up a can of plum tomatoes and faux sun-dry them in the oven. We cut them in half, sprinkle with herbs and driz with olive oil, and let them get wrinkly in a 150 degree oven for several hours. It's amazing how much better they taste after this side trip from can to caserole.
    Chuck Miller

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  2. This sound delicious. I think roasted cherry tomatoes are one of those killer secret ingredients. Toss them with angel hair pasta and a little olive oil infused with garlic and chile flakes, use them as a crostini topping with goat cheese, or--my favorite--stand over the sheet tray and pop them in your mouth. (doggies love them, too).

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  3. Thanks for the suggestions, Chuck and Susie. We'll try both wish we'd known about the roasted plum tomato trick last winter...)

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