Recipes, thoughts, and hints for enjoying herbs in the kitchen

Cooking With Herbs



Bountiful Basil

A Complement to Luscious Tomatoes

Basil is the herb of choice when juicy tomatoes start showing up at the farmers’ markets.  Whether you are eating reliable old Early Girl or more exotic heirloom varieties, the addition of a few leaves of basil seems to enhance the flavor.  One summer I rented a little cottage on the edge of Peconic Bay and planted a small herb garden and a few tomato plants.  Once the tomatoes were ripe, I don’t remember eating anything for lunch but bruschettas, the lightly toasted baguette drizzled with olive oil and rubbed with a cut clove of garlic then piled high with luscious tomato slices (heartier than the usual chopped) and chopped basil.  It was the simplest of lunches, but sitting by the water with a glass of something cold, I couldn’t have enjoyed anything more.

It remains one of my favorite lunches, but if I’m having guests I might make a tomato and basil tart instead.  The recipe is easy, but the wonderful contrast of flavors between the hearty Gruyère, the tang of the mustard, the sweetness of the tomatoes, and the sweetly spicy basil is an unbeatable combination.  Just add a green salad for the perfect summer lunch.

Sweet Tomato Basil Tart

1 10” pa
te brise tart crust, unbaked

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons chopped basil

½ pound Gruyère, thinly sliced

6 ripe tomatoes, sliced ½” thick

1 tablespoon brown sugar

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Fresh basil to garnish

Preheat the oven to 425ºF.  Bake the crust for 10 minutes.  Remove from the oven and cool slightly.

Spread the mustard over the cooled crust, sprinkle with the chopped basil, top with the cheese and then the tomatoes.  Season to taste.  Bake until the crust is golden, the cheese is melted, and the tomatoes are tender, about 15 to 20 minutes.  Garnish with fresh basil.  Serves 6.

While no flavors are more complimentary than basil and tomatoes, when you bathe the two in a good olive oil, then roast them slowly in the oven as they do in Provence, the resulting dish is indescribably delicious.  Cooking t
he tomatoes this way intensifies the flavor.   For greatest eye appeal, combine different colored tomatoes.

Roasted Tomatoes

8 ripe tomatoes

6 garlic cloves, peeled

12 basil leaves

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Olive oil

Fresh basil for garnish

Preheat oven to 425°F.  Arrange tomatoes, tops removed, in a baking dish just large enough to hold them.  Sprinkle the garlic and basil leaves among the tomatoes and season with salt and pepper.  Pour in enough olive oil to reach half-way up the tomatoes.  Place the dish in the oven and roast for 1 to 1½ hours or until the tomatoes are lightly browned.  They will be soft but retain their shape.  Serves 6 to 8.

Eat them warm or at room temperature with roast meats or fish or mash them and serve over pasta.


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© photos Chris Mead; drawings Don Wise, text Emelie Tolley


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