Monday, July 23, 2012

Italian Grilled Tomatoes

I can feel it in the air and I can smell it on my hands every time I come away from my garden.  Tomato season is upon us.  My plants are dripping with them and I'm just starting to see the first red cherries and golden pears.  Not enough to make a salad or meal from, but just enough to pluck off the plant and snack on as I wander through the garden.  I continue to will them to ripen more quickly, but no such luck.  Patience will pay off in the end, right?

Planted next to the tomato plants (serendipitously, I might add, as it planted itself there of its own accord) is a big, beautiful basil plant.  What better partners are there than tomatoes and basil?  Together they can become a simple pasta sauce, an everyday tomato salad, a beautiful margarita pizza, or my favorite- a caprese salad.  Tomatoes and fresh mozzarella drizzled with a bit of pesto.  What is there not to like?
It always makes me think of an old Seinfeld episode.  Anyone else remember this one?

GEORGE: Why do I get pesto? Why do I think I'll like it? I keep trying to like it, like I have to like it. JERRY: Who said you have to like it? GEORGE: Everybody likes pesto. You walk into a restaurant, that's all you hear - pesto, pesto, pesto. JERRY: I don't like pesto.

Well, Jerry, I love pesto and I know plenty of folks who do.  So this summer side dish is just for you, my pesto loving friends.
Italian Grilled Tomatoes
Serves 4
For a printable version, click here.

4 plum or Roma tomatoes
3 tbs olive oil
2 clove2 garlic
1/2 cup plain or panko breadcrumbs
1 tsp fresh thyme
2 tbs freshly grated parmesean cheese
salt and pepper to taste
a few tbs fresh pesto (see below for recipe)

Cut the tomatoes in half lengthwise.  With a spoon, scoop out the seeds.  Drizzle with 1 tbs olive oil and set aside.

In a small pan, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the garlic.  When the garlic becomes fragrant (after just a minute or so), toss in the breadcrumbs and thyme.  Toss to coat the breadcrumbs in the olive oil and toast them slightly.  Remove from the heat. Mix in the parmesean cheese and season with salt and pepper (remember the pesto will be salty from the cheese too, so go light).

Place the tomatoes, cut side down, on a grill that has been preheated and is set to a medium heat.  Grill until the tomatoes begin to soften and there are grill marks on the cut sides, 2-3 minutes.  Flip the tomatoes over and spoon a tablespoon of the breadcrumb mixture onto the tomatoes.  Continue grilling until the tomatoes are fully softened but not falling apart and the cheese in the topping has melted, another 2-3 minutes.  Remove the tomatoes to a serving dish and drizzle with pesto.  Serve warm.

Adapted from Ina Garten.

1/4 cup walnuts or pignoli (pine) nuts
2 cloves chopped garlic
2 1/2 packed cups basil leaves
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesean cheese
3/4 cup good quality olive oil

In a food processor, pulse together the nuts, garlic, basil and cheese until the basil is well chopped.  With the food processor on, stream in the olive oil until the mixture is well blended.  Pesto will keep in the fridge (cover with a thin layer of olive oil to keep the surface from turning dark) for two weeks.  You can also freeze any leftover pesto for up to three months.


  1. I have a confession, I don't like seinfeld very much. But I do like pesto. Love in fact!

    1. Ha ha ha! Well played Samantha. I do hope that you like these tomatoes too!