The tomato is one of summer's greatest gifts. Beautiful, healthy, low-calorie and versatile, tomatoes are delicious served in any number of ways. If you have a kitchen garden with enough sun and water, why not serve fresh, sliced tomatoes with basil for breakfast, lunch, dinner or all three?

If you rely on a farmers' market, chances are you'll be able to buy an assortment of different varieties of ripe tomatoes, good for serving raw, baked or as the base for sauces. Even supermarkets tend to have tasty vine-ripened tomatoes at this time of year, and, if you buy them slightly under ripe, you can leave them on a windowsill to ripen in the sun.

Dozens of tomato varieties are available today, ranging widely in size, shape and color. Among the most common is the beefsteak tomato, which tends to be large, bright red and slightly elliptical in shape. Beefsteak is not the best choice for this recipe. It tends to split and become runny when cooked.

Try instead the globe tomato, which is medium-sized, firm and juicy and is delicious raw or cooked. Another good option is the plum tomato or Italian plum, a flavorful egg-shaped tomato that comes in both red and yellow. If you're baking several tomatoes, you might alternate colors for an elegant presentation.

Although the tomato is considered one of America's favorite vegetables, it is actually a fruit. Marketers worked hard through the late 19th century to raise its visibility in the U.S., and in 1893 it was officially classified as a "vegetable" for trade purposes because it was used as one. Europeans had discovered the joys of this marvelous fruit well before we did.

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Tomatoes supply vitamin C and potassium. They are very rich in antioxidants that help decrease cancer risk. At least one of these phytochemicals, lycopene, is more available after the tomato is cooked. This recipe is a natural for anyone trying to increase the number of interesting vegetables dishes on the plate.

Baked tomatoes are also a good accompaniment to a small portion of fish or meat with a green salad. One baked tomato served on a bed of raw or cooked spinach makes an appealing first course, too.

Broiled Tomatoes Provencal

Makes 8 servings.

  • Olive oil
  • 4 medium firm, ripe tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs, preferably whole wheat
  • 2 Tbsp. grated Parmesan
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  1. Preheat the oven to 350. Lightly oil a 7x11-inch baking dish and set aside.
  2. If necessary, cut a thin slice from the bottom of each tomato so that it will stand upright. Combine the breadcrumbs, Parmesan, parsley, basil, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper. Cut the tomatoes in half crosswise; then gently squeeze out their seeds. Arrange cut side up in the baking dish. Spoon the breadcrumb mixture evenly over the tomatoes, gently patting down on top of each tomato half. Bake until the breadcrumbs are golden and the tomatoes are softened, about 50 minutes.

Nutritional Information Per Serving:
56 calories
2 g. total fat
<1 g. saturated fat
8 g. carbohydrate
2 g. protein
less than 2 g. dietary fiber
75 mg. sodium

Diabetic Exchanges: 1/2 Bread/Starch, 1 Vegetable