Author Notes: This recipe is mostly tomatoes, just warmed up and sharpened with a little garlic and basil, with just enough bread tossed in to sop up the juices. And some cheese on top, because cheese is always good on top. Merrill called it "hot panzanella". Adapted slightly from Cold Weather Cooking (Workman Publishing Company, 1990) - Genius Recipes
- 3 tablespoons bacon fat (or olive oil)
- 2 cups (1/2-inch diced) French bread, preferably a crusty baguette
- 16 plum tomatoes, cut 1/2-inch dice, about 2 1/2 pounds (use the best tomatoes you can find -- beefsteak will be juicier)
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
- 2 tablespoons sugar (optional -- we skipped it)
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup julienned basil leaves, lightly packed
- 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Heat the bacon fat in a large (12 inch) saute pan over medium heat. Add the bread cubes and stir to coat with the oil. Cook over medium to medium-high heat for 5 minutes, stirring often, until the cubes are evenly browned. Add the tomatoes, garlic and sugar to then pan and continue to cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, add the basil and remove from the heat.
- Pour the tomato mixture into a shallow (6 to 8 cup) baking dish. Sprinkle evenly with the Parmesan cheese and drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes until the top is browned and the tomatoes are bubbly. Serve hot or warm.
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