posttrib
ANNOYING 
Weather Updates

It’s all about the herbs with French cooking

storyidforme: 53105917
tmspicid: 1610280
fileheaderid: 613604

Provençal Tomatoes

3 large firm ripe tomatoes

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1 cup bread crumbs, homemade preferably

2 tbsp. minced shallots

1 tsp. dried herbes de Provence (or any medley of dried herbs)

3 tbsp. freshly grated Parmesan cheese

2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

3 tbsp. olive oil, plus more for drizzling

Set a rack in the upper level and preheat oven to 400F. Core the tomatoes and cut them in half crosswise. Gently squeeze each half to remove the seeds and juice and discard. Clean the cavities of any clinging seeds. Arrange them in a shallow baking dish cut side up. If they don’t stand flat cut a small amount off the bottom of the tomato to that they will sit flat. Season with a sprinkling of salt and pepper.

Stir together the bread crumbs, shallots, herbes de Provence, Parmesan cheese and parsley. Add 2-3 tbsp. of olive oil to moisten the crumbs and toss to coat evenly. Spoon the stuffing on the tomatoes, packing lightly, and then mound on top. Drizzle with olive oil. If making ahead, you can cover and refrigerate, or bake for 20 minutes until the tops are nicely browned. Be careful not to overbake, otherwise the tomatoes will soften and lose their shape. Serve them hot in the baking dish or move them carefully to a platter.

Source: Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, 1961, Alfred A. Knopf

Updated: September 8, 2013 6:10AM



Herbs de Provence, the archetypal flavor of today’s Americanized French cuisine, is a popular herb medley sold in every grocery store.

But travel back in time about 50 years, right about the time this country revolutionized French food, and it was nonexistent. Back then, the French did everything à la natural.

That archetypal flavor was hand-picked by French home cooks straight from their herb gardens. A little bit of thyme, savory, sage, marjoram, and just a wisp of those glorious purple lavender buds lining the fields of Provence were whisked up by the handfuls, tied up to dry, and then rubbed onto roasted meats to create a flavor that is so often affiliated with classic French cuisine.

The Provencal French still do it this way, and luckily, herb farmers make it easier for the consumer.

In the little coastal villages lining the Mediterranean in the south of France, the farmers markets start to pick up right about dusk. The hot sun has finally set and most of the tourists have fled the beaches, so it’s time for the locals to come out to do their shopping.

Dozens of wicker baskets full of dried herbs and spices dot the spice stands. Here, the locals make their own herbs de Provence, blending a medley of traditional French herbs according to their own tastes. However, even these Provencal farmers now make it easy for those seeking out a pre-blended mix. Patrons can fill a test tube-style spice jar with herbs de Provence, cork it, and take it home for the night’s dinner.

The set blending of herbs de Provence smooths the gateway to making otherwise intricate French dishes. Julia Child knew it, promoting a whole slew of Provencal dishes that featured the increasingly popular French medley.

Its use in a roasted chicken recipe is delectable, but Child saw the benefit of integrating the herbs into side dishes, too. Her recipe for stuffed Provençal tomatoes blends herbs de Provence with fresh Parmesan, shallots and bread crumbs. This tasty side is uncomplicated and rustic, yet deliciously cultured — just like a classic Provencal dish.

If you can’t get your hands on a jar of herbs de Provence that is actually from Provence, then use your own ingenuity. Snip an array of your garden’s French herbs; tarragon, thyme, savory, sage, marjoram and lavender are traditionally used, although the French will make do with whatever they’ve got in the garden.

Dry them out, mix together equal parts for this recipe and prepare this late summer dish that tastes of the pastoral, provincial homes of Provence.



© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit www.suntimesreprints.com. To order a reprint of this article, click here.