I am addicted to watching cooking shows on the Food Network. Lately, my favorite show is Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa. I like her philosophy on cooking which emphasizes quality, fresh ingredients and time-saving techniques. I also appreciate the way she teaches as she cooks, all with an easy-going attitude that appeals to me.
Do you know why she calls herself the Barefoot Contessa? I didn’t until recently when I started watching her show. In 1978, she left her job in Washington D.C. in the Office of Management and Budget to operate a store in West Hampton called the Barefoot Contessa. She later moved the store to East Hampton and operated it until 1996 when she again wanted a career change. She still lives in East Hampton, although she and her husband also have an apartment in Paris. (Interesting side note…if you’ve ever watched the movie “Something’s Gotta Give” with Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton, Ina’s store, the Barefoot Contessa, is where they film one of the scenes).
Since I have been off for the Christmas holidays the past couple of weeks and the weather in Houston, Texas has been cold, rainy, dreary and miserable (in fact, it is pouring rain as I write this), I have spent most of my time reading books, watching cooking shows and cooking…..hence my T’was the Day Before New Year’s post a couple of days ago….but….I digress….
Recently, I watched an episode called “Bread and Butter” where Ina bakes bread with famous New York restaurant and bakery owner, Eli Zabar. Bread making is something that I have always wanted to master. Years ago, I would make yeast rolls only to throw the whole batch out when they didn’t rise. But the past few years, I have finally gotten the hang of it and have pretty good success when trying something new.
Watching Eli make his “country bread” on her show inspired me to try it and it turned out great! I even forgot to turn down the oven when I put the bread in, and baked it for 15 minutes at the preheated temperature of 500 degrees before I realized my mistake (the kitchen was filling with smoke….that was a pretty good clue) and turned it down to 450 degrees. In this same episode, Ina makes her Provencal Cherry Tomato Gratin using Eli’s country bread to make the bread crumb topping. And since I had some of this bread left over, I wanted to try this recipe too.
Provencal is the French pronunciation of Provence, a large geographical region of southeastern France, which extends from the left bank of the lower Rhone River on the west to the Italian border on the east, and is bordered by the Mediterranean Sea on the south. Provencal cuisine uses fresh ingredients that are more common in Italian and Mediterranean dishes than typical French fare.
What appealed to me about this recipe is its simplicity and use of fresh, great ingredients…garlic, thyme, parsley, olive oil and bread crumbs are used to make a gratin to top the cherry tomatoes. After weeks of eating heavy, rich foods, I was craving something lighter. And since I didn’t need to make as much as the recipe called for (3 pints was going to be too much), I just used one pint and adjusted the rest of the ingredients by about a third. This isn’t a recipe that has to be exact so I didn’t worry about being too precise. I also used 2 cloves of garlic because I love garlic. Other than those adjustments, I made this recipe exactly like she did, although mine was done in about 22 minutes rather than 40 minutes (and yes, I baked it on the correct temperature, but I can certainly understand your questioning me)! The topping was browned and crunchy and the tomatoes were soft, bubbling and done perfectly.
I really liked this recipe. It’s a simple side dish that would go well with a variety of main courses, such as fish, steak or a simple chicken dish. You could also add some parmesan cheese to the topping or change the thyme out for basil. I will definitely make this again. I am sorry that I don’t have a picture of the finished dish to show here, because it’s really a pretty dish. I didn’t take a picture of it because I didn’t decide to write this review until after my family had eaten most of it.
Thanks for stopping by my website. I hope you’ll try this and let me know what you think. And if you like to bake bread, try Eli’s country bread. It’s delicious too, and the recipe is on the Food Network’s website.
Until next time,
P.S. I copied her recipe here, but you can also find it by going to the Food Network’s website and typing Ina Garten and the recipe title.
Provencal Cherry Tomato Gratin
Recipe courtesy of Ina Garten
Total Time: 55 min
Prep: 10 min
Cook: 45 min
Yield: 6 servings
- 3 pints cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
- 1 1/2 tablespoons plus 1/4 cup good olive oil
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3 large garlic cloves, peeled
- 1/3 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 2 cups coarse bread cubes from a country bread
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Place the tomatoes in a 9 x 13-inch ceramic dish. Add the 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil, thyme, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and toss together. Spread the tomatoes evenly in the pan.
Place the garlic, parsley, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade and process until the garlic is finely chopped. Add the bread cubes and process until the bread is in crumbs. Add the 1/4 cup of olive oil and pulse a few times to blend. Sprinkle the crumbs evenly over the tomatoes.
Bake the gratin for 40 to 45 minutes, until the crumbs are golden and the tomato juices are bubbling. Serve hot or warm.