Hot Tomatoes and Goat Cheese Recipe

On this Labor  Day weekend I am remembering the amazing Sheila Lukins, who recently passed away. Take a look at this wonderful tribute in the New York Times, in case you missed it.  Sheila was always one of my favorite food writers, and my tattered, dog-eared copy of the original Silver Palate17552074 Cookbook is certainly proof of that. My latest go-to recipe for parties is from her book Celebrate! (Workman, 2003). I adapted a recipe in a chapter entitled “Celebrate a Ripe Tomato” and it’s become my signature appetizer (or by default, it’s always requested when I’m hosting a party).  This weekend we’re off to a Labor Day cookout and this is what I’m bringing.

So in memory of Sheila Lukins, I wanted to pass along this fabulous recipe.  I don’t follow it exactly. It calls for a mint salad to serve on the side, but instead I top the tomatoes and goat cheese with slivers of fresh basil when they’re out of the oven.  I slice a French baguette and toast , then instruct guests to spread with the roasted garlic, then top with the softened tomato and goat cheese (crostini-style). I also toss in more cloves of garlic so there’s plenty to spread on the toasted bread.  The garlic becomes soft and caramelized, with a sweet, mild taste.  (I cut corners by buying the fresh, peeled garlic and I’ll often roast separately so I can monitor the garlic more closely, then I add at the end with the cheese; you want it soft and caramelized, but watch so it doesn’t burn.) The dish is a fun, interactive appetizer and it’s a beautiful celebration of summer with the tomatoes still left on the vine.

128654896771688821_400_0_0_0_false_color-emptyHere’s the recipe as it appears in the book:


How many ways can you combine tomatoes and cheese and still come up with something special?  That’s probably an unanswerable question, but I’m always glad to run across a new marriage of these favorite ingredients.  This recipe is inspired by a real conversation-stopper at the restaurant St. John in London.  Garlic, mint, cheese, olive oil and roasted tomatoes join forces here in a powerhouse dish.

12 cloves garlic
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
8 ripe tomatoes, sill connected on the vine
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
8 crottins de chevre (goat cheese rounds)
2 cups fresh mint leaves
Juice of 2 lemons
12 to 16 slices peasant bread, toasted

1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 F.
2. Place the garlic cloves on a piece of aluminum foil and drizzle 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over them.  Close the foil, forming a sealed packet and place it in a small ovenproof dish.  Bake to soften slightly, 10 minutes.  Remove the packet from the oven and set it aside.  Raise the oven temperature to 400 F.
3. Carefully arrange the tomatoes (still on the vine) in an oven-to-table baking dish.  Season them generously with salt and pepper.  Arrange the garlic cloves around the tomatoes.  Drizzle with 3 tablespoons of the olive oil, and bake until the tomatoes are softened and runny, 25 minutes.
4. Arrange the crottins around the tomatoes, and return the dish to the oven.  Bake until the cheese softens, another 5 minutes.  Watch carefully — you don’t want them to melt.
5. Meanwhile, coarsely tear the mint leaves and place them in a bowl.  Sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and the lemon juice.
6. To serve, pass the dish of tomatoes and cheese.  Everybody helps themselves to a tomato and a cheese and plenty of the sauce.  Spread the cheese and tomato on the toasts and pass the mint salad to scoop on top or eat on the side.

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    Made this tonight and you were right, it was a huge hit. YUM. Perfect time of year for a new twist on tomatoes. RIP Sheila.

  • Janet

    I’m so glad! We love this because it’s an “interactive” appetizer, with people involved in assembling the ingredients. So happy that it was hit. And all with happy memories of Sheila Lukins.

  • I have a skillet variation of this recipe I love to use in the summer, works best with cherry tomatoes. You can check it out on my blog at Something really magical happens when those fresh tomato juices get caramelized. Throw in some fresh basil and I’m in heaven! I usually serve it with fresh pasta or bruschetta.
    I am just heartbroken to hear about Shiela. I love my Silver Palate Cookbook. Thanks for this lovely post.

  • Pam

    I really appreciate your blog….very nicely done! A lot of great info!

    Congrats. on the foodie blogroll!

  • Robin Kline

    Just the thing for my vegetarian friends who are coming over on Sunday!
    And if Cathy Calhoun swears by this, I will as well.
    I’ve been roasting tomatoes all summer, and ratatouille as well.
    I like this formula with adding crottin and eating right out of the dish!
    Janet, this is a great blog–you GO, food lover RD!

  • Janet: This recipe sounds amazing. My only regret after reading your post is that I can’t use my own home-grown tomatoes thanks to the cold, wet New England summer we just experienced (our tomatoes rotted on the vine and were turned into “golf balls” by my 10-year old). One of my favorite Sheila Lukins recipes is her Nach Waxman’s Brisket of Beef from The New Basics Cookbook. It’s a great family-friendly dish my boys always enjoy! Thanks for the post …

  • Janet

    Thanks for your recipe. It looks great. And yes, so heartbroken about Sheila. I love the Silver Palate Cookbook, and the New Basics. I’ve made so many recipes from both!
    Thanks for visiting.

  • Janet

    I’m so happy to hear you’re enjoying my blog. Really appreciate! Keep coming back.

  • Janet

    I hope you and your guests enjoy this dish. Sometimes it helps to roast the garlic cloves separately. It doesn’t always come out right, depending on how big your tomatoes are. I find that I often get the garlic soft and caramelized fully first, then add at the end with the goat cheese.
    Yes, Cathy really enjoyed…so that’s a good endorsement!
    Thanks for your comments about my blog.
    I love writing it…so appreciate you visiting.

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