Tomatoes with Bread Pudding and Roasted Carrot Salad


Tomato Bread Pudding

Looking for John Steinbeck

Dragon carrots

“You can see how this book has reached a great boundary that was called 1900. Another hundred years were ground up and churned, and what had happened was all muddied by the way folks wanted it to be–more rich and meaningful the further back it was.”

East of Eden, John Steinbeck


East of Eden is a work of fiction that also includes real Steinbeck family history. Which makes for a very fascinating story. While John’s family history in the Salinas Valley unfolds the biblical parable of Cain and Abel is told with (mostly) fictional characters. John Steinbeck includes his mother’s, Olive Hamilton, family members as main characters in the novel. Olive’s parents, Samuel and Liza Hamilton are featured prominently in the novel. He wrote very little about his father’s family, the Steinbeck’s. I visited the San Benito County Historical Society to learn more of John Steinbeck’s paternal family history.

Fresh tomatoes

John’s grandfather, Johann Adolph Grosssteinbeck settled in Hollister with his family in 1874. He became a dairyman and eventually moved to the center of town, building a modest home that today is a rental property. Grandfather John was born in Germany and changed the name Grosssteinbeck to Steinbeck upon immigrating to the United States from Palestine. John’s father, John Ernst Steinbeck was born and grew up in Hollister, moving to Salinas after he married Olive. John’s father was a successful businessman as the Superintendent of Sperry Milling Company and Monterey County Treasurer. John was born in Salinas in 1902. He lived in Salinas until he attended Sanford University in Palo Alto. After John died, he returned home to Salinas where he is interred in the Hamilton family plot at the Garden of Memories.

Preparing tomato bread pudding


I timed my visit to Hollister to coincide with Wednesday’s small yet robust Farmers’ Market. From local honey to stone fruit, grapes, berries, heirloom tomatoes and all manner of baby greens I came home with my market bag bursting with spectacularly fresh produce. Without a plan or recipe in mind my purchases were as random as the coastal fog. With Beefsteak tomatoes only $1.00 a pound I knew some of the perfectly plump orbs were traveling home with me. And so did a huge bag of purple Dragon Carrots, plump green onions and crisp baby red chard.

Roasted Dragon carrots

My thoughts on salad are expansive. A salad can easily be dinner. The salad just needs to be substantial. Substantial in size? Perhaps, but definitely substantial in flavor and texture just like any other dinner recipe. And substantial satiety is not optional. Without satisfying our hunger by eating a salad for dinner we are back to salad as a side dish. I begin with a foundation of greens and build. Nothing is off limits, even bread pudding inside tomatoes. This recipe is the salad for dinner that we had after my trip to the Hollister Farmers’ Market.

Bread pudding or strata, either way I stuffed the tomatoes with leftover bread soaked in eggs and light cream. A savory summer pudding with Parmesan cheese and fresh oregano gently steams inside the sweet tomatoes. A bed of spicy baby chard wilts from the warmth of the juicy tomatoes. Roasted carrots, scattered and adorned with lemon thyme make for a medley of flavors and textures that satisfies everyone at dinnertime. I couldn’t stop eating the sweet lemony carrots straight from the pan. If a vegetable could be candy, freshly harvested carrots roasted with lemon thyme would be a contender. This salad for dinner is so complete that no additional dressing is required.

Tomatoes Stuffed with Bread Pudding
4 large tomatoes, such as Beefsteak
2 eggs
1/3C half & half (light cream)
1/4T salt
1/8t ground pepper
21/2C diced bread, such as ciabatta
1/2C grated Parmesan cheese
11/2t minced fresh oregano
Roasted Carrot Salad
8 medium sized carrots
2 T

olive oil
1/4t salt
1/8t ground pepper
1T fresh lemon thyme or thyme
4 handfuls of baby red chard, arugula or spinach
3T very thinly sliced onions
  1. Cut the tops off the tomatoes and scoop out the interior flesh and seeds. Take care not to tear a hole in the exterior wall of the tomato. Turn the tomatoes over on top of a paper towel to drain while you prepare the bread pudding.
  2. Heat the oven to 350°. Lightly grease an oven proof dish for the tomatoes.
  3. In a medium sized bowl mix together the eggs, half and half and the salt and pepper.
    Add the bread, 1/3 cup of the Parmesan cheese and the oregano and mix together. The bread should soak up the egg and cream mixture. If the bread is still dry add half and half a tablespoon at a time. Let the stuffing rest for five minutes. With a paper towel pat the inside of the tomatoes dry. Then lightly stuff the tomatoes. The tomato tops can bake along side the tomatoes but they will cook more quickly.
  4. Bake the stuffed tomatoes for 40-45 minutes until the tomato skins just barely begin to split open and the bread pudding has finished baking. After baking 35 minutes sprinkle the rest of the Parmesan cheese on top of the puddings. When done, a cake tester inserted in the center of the puddings will come out cleanly. If desired, the puddings can be browned very briefly under a broiler.
  5. Heat the oven to 425°. Scrub carrots clean and cut into slices of even thickness. Cut the small ends of the carrots thicker for uniform roasting.
  6. Pour the olive oil on a sheet pan and spread to cover the entire surface of the pan. Add the carrots, salt, pepper and thyme. Toss to coat all the slices evenly. Roast the carrots for 10-15 minutes. Turn the carrots once during roasting. The carrots are finishing cooking when they can be easily pierced with a fork.
  7. Arrange the chard on a serving platter or plate and top with the warm Tomato Bread Pudding and Roasted Carrots. Scatter onion slices across the salad.

Thank you to Sharlene of The San Benito County Historical Society and Denise of B&R Farms for sharing a bit of John Steinbeck Hollister trivia with me.

Farmers market vegetables

Tomatoes with Bread Pudding and Roasted Carrot Salad

John Steinbeck's grandparent house, Hollister, California

John Steinbeck’s grandparent’s house, Hollister, California

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47 Responses to Tomatoes with Bread Pudding and Roasted Carrot Salad

  1. Patty says:

    This is my kind of meal Deb! Love how you’ve stuffed your tomatoes with bread pudding and made them the focus of your plate 😉 The roasted carrot salad looks so yummy on the plate as well. I am just not ready to let go of our Summer tomatoes 😉
    I spent some time in Hollister, back in the day, my uncle was Mayor there about a gazillion, I exaggerate, years ago! Thanks for including the photo of John Steinbeck’s grandparent’s house and passing on what you learned about the family history. Hope you’re having a great week 😉

    • Deb says:

      Thank you for the lovely comment Patty! My tomatoes are just beginning to ripen. I am so happy! I would love to learn more about your local history!

  2. Jacquee says:

    I am intrigued by all the earthy, brilliant colours and can almost smell and taste the vegetables from where I sit. Bread pudding in tomato – innovative and YUM!

  3. I love salads as dinner. This one is warm and autumnal with the flavors of late summer. Perfect.

  4. Deb: What gorgeous vegetable pictures!!!! The bread pudding stuffed tomatoes is creative and looks quite comforting. Pinned!

  5. I love stuffed tomatoes, what a scrumptious savory bread pudding. Your market shopping resulted in a colorful and delicious feast!

  6. Cathy says:

    Bread pudding as a filling is such a great idea – up to now I’ve only used a breadcrumb mix. The colours on the plate make it look like a work of art too. Quite a shame to eat it! 😀

  7. Deb, how brilliant!…your bread pudding stuffed tomato recipe is an original. I’ve never come across a recipe like it. Such complimentary flavors. My mom tells of eating tomato sandwiches as a little girl with nothing more than bread, tomato, and a little butter. My guess is, she would find these quite delectable.

    • Deb says:

      Tomato sandwiches are indeed a summer treat! My mom made sandwiches of tomatoes, mayo and white bread. Thank you for the gracious comment Mary, I appreciate it!

  8. Carol Sacks says:

    I love a substantial and beautiful veggie dinner and this fits the bill. Delightful post, Deb!

  9. Beautiful vegetables, you’re torturing all of us, Deb! And stuffing tomatoes with bread pudding sounds so tasty, the combination of flavors in your recipe is simply perfect!

  10. I first read Steinbeck’s East of Eden when I was high school. You’ve reminded me just how much I loved it.

    Your tomato dish looks and sounds amazing. I love it when a meal is inspired by the produce rather than a recipe.

  11. These. Look. Scrumptious. I will have two! I shared this before I had time to leave a note, but couldn’t help but come back for more! I must make this (unless you deliver …) and delicious photos Deb!

  12. Your photos are beautiful. Produce never looked better.

  13. Tiffany says:

    Oooo lala! Those carrots are so pretty! And I love that you stuffed your baked tomatoes. This is all around yum! (and very elegant!!!). Hugs from Rwanda!

  14. You couldn’t have made a better stuffed tomato if you tried Deb, these are sensational! Strata is something I adore, much more than sweet bread pudding, and roasted tomatoes are, well, just amazing. I wish I could get purple carrots here, they make for a colorful plate. Randomly buying at the farmer’s market can be a great thing.

  15. Valentina says:

    What a comforting, delicious way to celebrate tomatoes. I really love John’s grandparents house. Darling. And as always, your images are stunning.

  16. Gosh Deb, I feel like you need to come and do a presentation for my daughter’s 10th grade Amer Lit class. Seriously – this is such a beautiful combination of literature analysis, trivia, and food. What a lovely combination of talents with words, visuals, and in the kitchen.

    I also love to go to the market, then come home and figure out what to do with what I bought. Often, my ideas do not come to life because I run out of time but yesterday I bought a bag of zucchini blossoms (for $2!!!) and did make baked stuffed zucchini flowers last night. No time for good photos but the the result was excellent, even tho the photos are not 🙂

  17. Deb, I love the presentation on this one! Absolutely beautiful.

  18. The tomatoes and carrots are so pretty! I think I’d fill my car if I found those tomatoes for $1 a pound (never happens here). This is a beautiful farmers’ market meal!

    • Deb says:

      I couldn’t believe the price of the Beefsteak tomatoes! They just had to come home with me! Thanks you for commenting Lisa, I appreciate it!

  19. I have never seen tomatoes or anything else for that matter stuffed with bread pudding. That is a brilliant idea. 🙂

  20. Because of you, ‘East of Eden’ has been on my list. I almost bought a copy in London over the weekend but resisted. Admirably, I might add!

    Thank you for sharing a bit more of the Steinbecks, but also gorgeous recipes. And beautiful photos too!

    • Deb says:

      Thank you for the delightful comment! “East of Eden” is a extraordinary novel, but “Grapes of Wrath”is my favorite!

  21. Rosa says:

    A fabulous dish! So tasty and comforting.

    That house is really pretty! I’d love to live there.



  22. Deena Kakaya says:

    Deb this is such an unusual, pretty and intriguing dish! Is the stuffing moist or does it g crumbly? Lovely recipe x

    • Deb says:

      Thank you for commenting Denna! Huddled inside the tomatoes the savory bread pudding remains moist and tender, while the cheese topping brings crunch to the recipe.

  23. Every time I see your posts, I long for a fresh market next to me! Such abundance Deb! I’ve been meaning to make strata for a long time, and the idea of stuffing it into tomatoes is just brilliant! A great change from those awful made here with rice and tuna. Beautiful post!

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