This simple gratin is a nice late-summer dish. The tomatoes are roasted just long enough to enhance their flavor, the breadcrumbs add some crunch, and the cheese adds balance. Think of this as a tomato and cheese sandwich incarnated.

To make fresh bread crumbs, tear up some slices of good bread, put in the food processor and pulse to coarse crumbs. Dry bread crumbs are made from stale bread or bread that has been toasted.

3 large tomatoes or 5 medium tomatoes
3 T olive oil, plus extra for the baking dish
salt and pepper, to taste
4 T coarsely chopped basil, or other herb, or 1 t dried herb
2 – 3 minced garlic gloves
1 c coarsely textured fresh bread crumbs or dry bread crumbs
1/3 – 1/2 c grated Parmesan or other cheese
extra fresh, chopped herb, for garnish, optional

1. Core tomatoes and either slice about 1/2-inch thick, or cut into quarters or eighths, depending on the size of the tomatoes. Put between two layers of paper or cotton towels (not terrycloth) for about 45 minutes. The towels will absorb liquid exuding from the tomatoes and make for a not so soggy dish. For tomatoes that you quarter or eighth, put cut side down.

2. Preheat oven to  500°F. Lightly oil a baking dish that will hold the tomatoes in one layer. Arrange the tomato slices in a slightly overlapping layer, or arrange the quarters or eighths, peel side down, in a single layer–it’s okay if they touch. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and herb.

3. Heat the oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté, stirring, for barely a minute. Add the fresh bread crumbs, stir to coat with the oil and remove from the heat. If using dry bread crumbs, take the skillet off the heat before adding, stirring to coat with the oil. Scatter the bread crumb mixture over the tomatoes, then sprinkle the grated cheese over all.

4. Bake for about 15 minutes, until white breadcrumbs have turned golden or whole grain breadcrumbs have deepened in color. Serve immediately, or let stand and serve warm or at room temperature, garnished with fresh, chopped herb, if you like.