Monday, October 02, 2006

Utimate Baked Green Tomatoes

Green tomatoes are in peak season and should remain so until well after the first frost. If you don't have them in your garden, the best place to look is at the farmers market. Great recipes abound for green tomatoes, particularly in the American South. Most prevalent are the numerous preparations for fried green tomatoes, some better than others. Joy of Cooking has a wonderful recipe for Stewed Green Tomatoes, and recently posted a recipe from the 2004 issue of Gourmet for Green Tomato Soup, which we prepared last night with some modifications. The nature of these modifications and a photograph will appear in a subsequent post.

Today's featured dish, however, ranks among my favorite recipes of all time. It appears as "Baked Scalloped Tomatoes" in what is also one of my favorite cookbooks of all time: New Almond Cookery, by Michelle Schmidt, 1984, Simon & Shuster, New York, Copyrighted by the California Almond Growers Exchange.

I picked New Almond Cookery up at a flea market 20 years ago and have never seen another copy. However, it's available used right now on for as little as 21 cents. Although every recipe makes use of almonds, it's the dishes themselves that stand out more than simply the fact that almonds are an ingredient. Personally, I think of this book as representative of the roots of "California Cuisine." For the recipe that follows, New Almond Cookery offers a choice between using either green or red tomatoes. Both ways are delicious, though I distinctly prefer going with the green.

Baked Green Tomatoes

4 large green tomatoes, peeled
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 cup whole blanched almonds, toasted
5 tablespoons butter, divided
1/2 cup fresh white bread crumbs
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2/3 cup heavy cream

Slice green tomatoes 1/4 inch thick; season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and the pepper. Drain on paper towel. Meanwhile, coarsely grind almonds in food processor or blender. Melt 4 tablespoons butter; combine with remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, the bread crumbs,, garlic, parsley, thyme and ground almonds. Butter a shallow ovenproof dish with the remaining 1 tablespoon butter. Arrange tomato slices in dish. Sprinkle with almond mixture. Evenly drizzle cream over top. For green tomatoes, bake at 475 degrees for 30 minutes our until top is lightly browned and tomatoes are just tender.

Serves six