tomato bread pudding

The seasons are changing, and it’s time to take advantage of fresh tomatoes and herbs. Both are the stars of this cozy casserole that’s ridiculously easy to make. Upon taking my first, slightly scalding bite, I was immediately transported to my youth. The casserole tastes exactly like dipping a gooey grilled cheese sandwich into a warm bowl of steamy Campbell's tomato soup. It’s a thing of beauty.

Ingredients:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
8 cups bread, 1-inch sized bread cubes
1 1/2 cups cheese, cheddar shredded
1 pint cherry tomatoes or golden cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
1 teaspoon thyme, fresh, leaf, removed from stem
2 tablespoons chives, fresh, fine chopped
4-6 leaves of basil, torn, plus more for garnish
5 eggs
2 cups half and half
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Method Of Prep:
1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
2. Using a pastry brush, grease a 2 1/2 quart-sized casserole dish with some butter. What butter you don’t use set aside.
3. In a big bowl, whisk together the eggs, half and half, salt, pepper and the remaining melted butter. Whisk well to combine. Add the bread cubes, cheese, halved tomatoes and all the herbs. Fold the mixture to moisten all of the bread cubes, taking care not to break the bread too much. Gently pour the mixture into the baking dish and spread it out evenly.
4. Place the dish into the oven for 45 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly before serving. Garnish the top with some torn basil and serve warm.

Kyle Pafford is the Executive Chef at Atlantic Shores Retirement Community.