My mother didn't use cookbooks. I don't remember ever seeing one anywhere near her kitchen. She did have a three-ring binder that contained a few handwritten recipes. There were also 3 x 5 cards. Mother seemed to cook mostly from memory and to taste. Her fried chicken was the best I've ever had. It was always accompanied by mashed potatoes and a green vegetable. Her "roast" beef was actually boiled beef and was not the best!! It was almost always accompanied by boiled potatoes (in the same pot), horseradish sauce and a green vegetable. Actually, mother liked green on a plate so almost every meal had a green vegetable. It was unusual that we had a new dish on the table.
The first time tomato bread pudding appeared, I wasn't old enough for my feet to touch the floor while sitting at the dinner table. I was old enough to recall the stir it caused among us sisters!! We had no intention of going further than the obligatory "one bite" rule!! Surprisingly, it was a hit.
I've not had the dish in more decades than I'd like to admit. When I was organizing (and I use that word loosely) a photo drawer (it's a big drawer), I came across an old photo of my family (including my dear grandmother) sitting around the kitchen table. My father has on a white shirt and tie. Mother and Nanny have on earrings. It isn't a holiday--we'd be in the dining room for that dinner. I can't see what food is on the table but the photo brought tomato bread pudding to mind. I began a search for a recipe. I found some but most had eggs and/or cheese and didn't sound like mother's. Her's was meant to be a side dish I'm sure. I'm also sure (but don't know why) she used stewed tomatoes. In fact, I think she called the dish "stewed tomato pudding". I Googled "stewed tomatoes" and up popped a canned variety. I found them on the grocery shelf and went to work on making the dish. This recipe is from my first attempt and delicious. We had them as a side dish to pork chops.
Tomato Bread Pudding
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup brown (light or dark) brown sugar, packed
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Salt to taste
1/2 stick butter
8 slices of firm bread cut into 1-inch cubes
2 Tbsp minced fresh parsley
1. In a large saucepan, combine the tomatoes, bay leaf, brown sugar, pepper and salt. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook for five minutes. Remove the bay leaf.
2. Preheat the oven to 350 . Place the butter into a 2-quart rectangular baking dish and put into the heating oven to melt. Add the bread and parsley and toss with the butter to evenly coat. Pour the tomato mixture evenly over the bread but do not stir.
3. Bake the dish for 30 minutes or until the top is puffed and golden brown. Serve hot.