“The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking, you’ve got to have a what-the-hell attitude.” – Julia Child
Usually when you apply for a job and you don’t get it, you don’t get a reason why. That wasn’t the case for me a few years ago when I applied for a job at a bakery.
The owner told me she thought I was too old to learn how to frost a cake.
I was 33.
When I called Mommaw that night to relay the story, she said, “Well, I didn’t know you had to be a teenager to make a cake. Someone should have told Julia Child.”
At my age, Julia was just getting started.
She would have turned 100 on Aug. 15. To celebrate, her publisher has been hosting the JC100, a 100-day tribute leading up to her birthday. The idea is to get as many people as possible talking about Julia and making at least one of her recipes.
You won’t find an easier one that her Stuffed Tomatoes Provencal. You split the tomatoes, squeeze out the seeds and juice, stuff them with seasoned bread crumbs, and bake them.
It’s not fussy or epic. Just a simple preparation that lets the flavor of the tomatoes really shine.
So, how do you serve them? They’re great with grilled meats, but they’d also make a light side for something heavier, like meatloaf or shrimp and grits. And they’d be pretty fantastic at brunch, sitting right next to a ham-and-cheese omelet or quiche.
And, look, don’t ever let anyone try to make you believe you’re too old for anything – except maybe the Olympic Gymnastics Team. No, actually, even then … if turning cartwheels is your life’s mission, tumble on, Tumbler.
You’ll find a way.
Remember that, and remember Julia.
P.S. To join in on the JC100 fun, check out the celebration on Facebook and Tumblr.
Julia’s Stuffed Tomatoes Provencal
If you can’t find dried herbes de Provence at your grocery, feel free to use other fresh or dried herbs, like basil, oregano and thyme.
Excerpted from “Julia and Jacques: Cooking at Home” by Julia Child and Jacques Pépin
Yield: 6 tomato halves
- 3 large firm ripe tomatoes
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
For the stuffing
- 1 to 1 1/2 cups fresh bread crumbs (see Note)
- 2 tablespoons minced shallots
- 1 teaspoon dried herbes de Provence
- 3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 to 3 tablespoons chopped parsley
- 3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil
- A shallow baking dish, lightly brushed with olive oil
- Set a rack on the upper-middle level, and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
- Preparing the tomatoes: Core the tomatoes, and cut them in half crosswise. Over a plate or bowl, squeeze each half gently to force out the seeds and juice. With your fingers, clean the cavities of any clinging seeds. Arrange in the baking dish cut side up. If any halves are wobbly or tilted, trim a bit off the bottom so that they sit flat in the pan. Season with a sprinkling of salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.
- Stuffing and baking the tomatoes: Stir together the bread crumbs, shallots, dried herbs, grated cheese, and chopped parsley in a small bowl. Add 2 or 3 tablespoons of the olive oil, tossing well to moisten the crumbs evenly.
- Spoon the stuffing into the tomato halves, pushing it down into the cavities and mounding on top. Drizzle a scant teaspoon of oil over the top of each half.
- Bake for approximately 20 minutes, or until the topping has browned and the tomatoes are hot but still keep their shape. Serve hot in the baking dish, or move them carefully to a clean platter.
Note on Bread Crumbs: Start with homemade-style white bread, crusts removed, either genuinely home-baked or a commercial variety like Pepperidge Farm. Tear the bread into small chunks, then pulse them, about 2 cups at a time, in a food processor until the crumbs have the texture you want.
Do-Ahead Note: The tomato halves can be stuffed several hours in advance and refrigerated before baking.
Copyright © 1999 by A La Carte Communications. Reprinted with permission from the publisher Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc.
Nutritional Information Per Serving (1/2 tomato) – calories: 113, fat: 8g, carbs: 9g, fiber: 1g, protein: 2.5g.