The last of the heirloom tomatoes deserve a special send-off, something that sets them smack in the center of the plate and showcases them in all their funny-shaped, juicy glory.

Tomatoes Provençal are usually a side dish made with small, round, easy-to-serve tomatoes. Making them with heirloom tomatoes requires more cooking time, but it turns the recipe into a main dish when served with grains (in my case, a quinoa-rice pilaf that soaks up all the tomato juices and provides a hit of protein from the quinoa).

I made one last-minute addition to the dish: quartered shallots to hold the tomatoes upright. Tomatoes Provençal is a fairly rustic dish already (Read: messy but so very delicious). I didn’t need all the breadcrumb topping sliding off and into the baking dish. Plus, the shallots cooked up tender and tasty!

PS The recipe works well with big, beefsteak tomatoes too.

precooked tomatoes provencal

Pre-cooked tomatoes

Heirloom Tomatoes Provençal

4 large (8 oz/250g) heirloom or beefsteak tomatoes
3 to 4 Tbs. olive oil, plus more for drizzling the tomatoes
3 to 4 large shallots or small onions, peeled, trimmed and quartered, optional
1 cup fresh parsley
2 cloves garlic, peeled
½ cup breadcrumbs
¼ cup (1 oz/60 g) finely grated Parmesan cheese
1 Tbs. dried herbes de Provence or Italian seasoning
¼ tsp. salt

Quinoa-Rice Pilaf
½ cup quinoa
½ cup long-grain white rice
1 Tbs. olive oil
½ small onion, finely chopped (1/2 cup)

Preheat the oven to 450˚F. Coat a baking dish with olive oil. Carefully remove the stem of each tomato, then slice the tomato lengthwise, through the stem. Set the tomatoes in the prepared baking dish, cut side up, arranging the quartered shallots or onions between them to hold them upright, if desired. Drizzle each tomato half with a little olive oil, and season them with salt and pepper. Bake 15 to 20 minutes, or until the tomatoes begin to soften and brown on top.

Meanwhile, finely chop the parsley and garlic together, then transfer to a small bowl. Stir in the breadcrumbs, Parmesan and herbes de Provence, then add the oil and stir until the breadcrumbs are completely coated and begin to stick together.

Pack a scant ¼ cup of the breadcrumb mixture into a small (1/4 cup) cup measure. Upturn the cup measure over one of the pre-baked tomatoes to coat it in breadcrumbs, using the back of the cup measure to spread the breadcrumb mixture evenly. (This is a little tricky…those pre-baked tomatoes are HOT!) Repeat with the remaining mixture.

Return the tomatoes to the oven, and bake 10 to 15 minutes more, or until the breadcrumb topping is crisp and golden brown.

To make the Quinoa-Rice Pilaf: Rinse and drain the quinoa and rice. (This removes any starch from the rice and any bitter coating from the quinoa.)

Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, and sauté
3 to 4 minutes, or until the onion is softened. Add the quinoa and rice, and sauté 1 to 2 minutes more, or until the rice begins to turn opaque. Add 2 cups of water and ½ tsp. salt to the pot, cover, and simmer 12 to 14 minutes, or until all the water is absorbed. Remove the saucepan from the heat, and let the pilaf stand 2 minutes before fluffing and serving with the Tomatoes Provençal. Serves 4 as a main course, 8 as a side dish

Note: To make the dish vegan, you could replace the Parmesan cheese with nutritional yeast or finely chopped almonds or pistachios.