What woman alive hasn't been in the spot of needing to learn to prepare some food item "just like Mom"--especially when the Mom you're wanting to emulate happens to belong to your hubby?
Such was the case early in my own married life, when my hubby forever seemed to be extolling his mother's ability to fix Baked Tomatoes (and their related item, Breaded Tomatoes).
Doing something with tomatoes other than simply slicing them for a tossed salad wasn't part of my cooking repertoire. Yet he mentioned this matter often: "I sure would like to have some tomatoes like my mother made."
I am thankful that I was not without resources. During part of my years as a newspaper reporter I was privileged that my office "cubby" adjoined that of Ann Criswell, the legendary and internationally regarded food editor of the Houston Chronicle. Despite her acclaim Ann was as approachable and helpful as the day is long; she heard my plight about being a non-cook of tomatoes and dug through her recipes to help me find something that reasonably sounded as though they were the type of thing on which my husband dined in his youth.
Last evening for our dinner we were blessed with some huge, red tomatoes just plucked from our garden's own tomato vines. Without a second thought I knew what my hubby would suggest if I asked him, "What should we fix with these tomatoes tonight?"
I dug out one of my tomato recipes that Ann Criswell scoured her collection and helped me find. (The companion recipe for Breaded Tomatoes appears in my new cookbook, Way Back in the Country Garden. The secret ingredient for that recipe, by the way, was sugar. My mother-in-law applied more than just a "dash" to any vegetable recipe she prepared. To further emulate her, I'll often add that spoonful of sugar to vegetables just as she did, except I make sure it's sugar substitute.)
My recipe for Baked Tomatoes that appears below and along with fried zucchini (the first two zucchini from our this-year's vines) served with a little ketchup made a delightful summer meal last night. Fresh back from our 18-hour drive home from Phoenix, we were weary of "road food" and glad to settle down to a meal of just-veggies. The wonderful flavor of the tomatoes with seasoned breading on top made me glad my hubby pressed for me to learn to cook tomatoes "just like Mom."
4 medium tomatoes
1/4 teaspoon salt (we used salt substitute)
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup soft bread crumbs, toasted
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
2 cloves garlic, minced (or 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder)
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/'4 teaspoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Cut tomatoes in half horizontally and remove core. Place tomato halves in a lightly greased 11-inch by 7-inch baking dish. Sprinkle salt, pepper, and parmesan over cut surface of each tomato half. Combine next six ingredients and mix well. (If you like extra breading, you may double the ingredients in this part of the recipe). Bake at 350 degrees for 15-18 minutes or until tomatoes are thoroughly heated and bread topping is brown. Makes 8 servings.