Serve as part of an antipasti, and these tomatoes are also excellent as a garnish for roast lamb.
Cut the tomatoes in half longitudinally, and scoop out the seeds (one use for a melon baller, but a teaspoon is better). Season lightly and leave like inverted boats, on a rack over a plate, to drain.
To make the pesto crumbs, combine the basil, Parmesan, pine nuts, breadcrumbs and garlic in a food processor. Whizz, then add enough oil so that the mix will lightly cohere when pressed. Check the seasoning.
Stuff the tomatoes with this mix (do not heap it up), and arrange carefully in the prepared gratin dish. Sprinkle with a little coarse salt, a few extra breadcrumbs and a little oil. Bake in the preheated oven for 40 minutes until the tomatoes are collapsed. Do not allow them to burn on top (you may cover loosely with foil once brown, but this will cause the crust to steam and not remain crisp). Do not allow the water in the dish to completely dry out, or the tomatoes will burn on the bottom.
The cooking times are approximate. You must learn to make your own judgements; remember that tomatoes are good raw and delicious cooked, but an indeterminate halfway stage is not pleasant.
© 1996 Alastair Little. All rights reserved.