There are so many ways to put fresh tomatoes to good use in the summertime. You can put them in salads, roast them in the oven to pair with bread or pasta, and you can turn them into an irresistible gazpacho. This Summer Tomato Gratin with Garlic Parmesan Topping is just one more delicious way to enjoy tomatoes. I was inspired by a piece that Cook’s Country magazine did on this type of dish, as I had never had a tomato gratin before, and after a little bit of experimentation, I put together a version that will now be a summer staple at my house.
This gratin starts with about three pounds of fresh tomatoes. Choose meaty, heirloom varieties for the best results and flavor. Heirloom tomatoes make a gratin that is head and shoulders above anything you can make with your standard store-bought tomato. I use homegrown tomatoes in mine and work with whatever tomatoes are available in my garden, but I prefer to use a mix of colors for a brighter look to the dish. The tomatoes are drained to remove a little bit of their excess moisture – a great tip that came from the magazine – and then topped with a simple garlic-Parmesan crumb topping. The topping uses both fresh bread crumbs and crispy Panko breadcrumbs, which blend very well for a perfectly crispy – but not dry – topping. I also include some thinly sliced sweet onions (Hawaiian or Vidalia) along with the tomatoes to give the dish a little extra flavor. The tomatoes take on an intense flavor from their time in the oven and the crispy topping is a great contrast to the sweet, tender tomatoes. The dish captures all the flavor of bruschetta in a totally different package.
This is an excellent side dish for any summer meal, but if you are as big a tomato fan as I am, I have to tell you that it makes a great main course, as well. Be generous with the serving sizes and pair this with a salad, and you have a vegetarian entree that celebrates summer and that your guests will adore.
Summer Tomato Gratin with Garlic Parmesan Topping
3 lbs fresh tomatoes, pref. heirloom
2 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
1 medium sweet onion, Hawaiian or Vidalia
1/3 cup olive oil, divided
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1 tsp garlic powder
salt and pepper, to taste
1 1/4 cups finely grated Parmesan cheese
Slice tomatoes into 1/2-inch thick slices, removing the stems of the tomatoes as you slice them.
Combine salt and sugar in a small bowl. Layer tomato slices into a colander, sprinkling each layer with some of the salt and sugar mixture as you work. Allow colander to stand over a bowl (or the sink) for 30 minutes to drain excess moisture from the tomatoes. Toss gently after 15 minutes.
Preheat oven to 425F.
Put 2 tbsp olive oil on the bottom of a 9×13-inch baking dish. Thinly slice onion and arrange in a single layer at the bottom of the baking dish.
Arrange drained tomatoes on top of the sliced onion.
Bake tomatoes and onion for 20 minutes, uncovered.
While the tomatoes bake, in a large bowl, combine fresh bread crumbs, panko bread crumbs, garlic powder and the salt and pepper. Stir to combine. Add in remaining olive oil and stir until crumbs are well-coated. Add parmesean and mix until well incorporated.
Take tomatoes out of the oven and spread crumb mixture evenly over the top of the tomato layer (while it is hot).
Return pan to oven and bake for additional 10-15 minutes, until topping is golden brown.
Allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.
Serves 4-6 as a main dish, 8-10 as a side.