Vegetables by Elsie

Fried Tomatoes and Courgettes from the pages of "Elsie de Wolfe's Recipes for Successful Dining". The slightly chipped white platter is vintage ironstone.

Breading vegetables is something I find rather odd. I much prefer vegetables as close to their natural state as possible—simple, direct, and tasting of the garden. The decorator and hostess Elsie de Wolfe seems to have been of similar mind, given the relatively uncomplicated vegetable dishes featured in her cookery book, Elsie de Wolfe’s Recipes for Successful Dining (William-Frederick Press, 1947).

One extremely basic side dish from its pages is Fried Tomatoes and Courgettes (that’s zucchinis to those of us living in the United States). The vegetables are lightly breaded and end up looking a bit messy when cooked as directed but the untidy result is admirable, the bread crumbs adding a satisfying crunchiness that marries well with the tender tomatoes and courgettes. De Wolfe’s cookery book directs that the vegetables be mixed and cooked together; we decided that would be unattractive, so chose to cook them separately and combine them on the plates at serving time. It just looks nicer, I think.

My husband and I enjoyed this side dish immensely. Our daughter, aged eight, was more critical. “Tomatoes and bread crumbs shouldn’t be together,” she said after a moment’s pondering. “But they are good on the courgettes.”


SOURCE: Elsie de Wolfe’s Recipes for Successful Dining (William-Frederick Press, 1947)



3 medium courgettes [zucchinis]

3 large tomatoes

Bread crumbs

Salt and pepper

Unsalted butter


First, remove the skins of the tomatoes. Do this by cutting Xs into the bottoms of the tomatoes and then immersing them in a pot of boiling water for 15 seconds. With a slotted spoon transfer them to a bowl of cold water. When cool enough to handle peel off the skins, starting at the X, and slice the tomatoes in pieces the shape of orange sections (not rounds). Set aside.

Peel the courgettes and cut into slices of the same shape as the tomatoes. Set aside.

Roll or gently toss the courgettes and tomatoes in fresh bread crumbs seasoned well with salt and pepper.

Fry in plenty of butter until well done.


6 comments on “Vegetables by Elsie

  1. Guy says:

    I’m curious–as this is so simple, do you think it is one of those things you would rather not worry about until you have perfect tomatoes, or do you think the cooking is enough to heighten what flavor is there?

    • That is a puzzlement, Guy. The tomatoes I used were a day or two past their prime, though still relatively firm, and had been purchased at the local grocer, so they weren’t the fine summer specimens I’m looking forward to purchasing at farm stands in my area. I did find that the cooking did heighten the tomatoes flavour, however, with the bread crumbs as a pleasant textural diversion. What surprised me more, however, was the quality of the cooking on the texture of the courgettes. They became wonderfully softened the longer they cooked.

  2. french girl cooking says:

    I know that the matter of your blog is to realize old recepts. But you call it “aesthete cook”. Fresh bread crumps, like sponge, drinks butter with a terrible greediness. Cooked butter is very bad for your bue blood. If somebody is afraid of fat —like I’m—, we can always cook the same with a little bit of olive oil. Tomatoes and courgettes are not vegetables of butterland (Bretagne, Normandie, Bougogne) but of oliveland (Provence, luberon). And it stays an old recept.

    • Many thanks, Marie-Odile! I appreciate your insights very much and hope that readers understand that many recipes can be adjusted to one’s personal dietary requirements. Once again, the goal of this blog is revisit old recipes and see how they taste, given today’s culinary advances. Obviously dishes loaded with butter and cream aren’t meant to be consumed on a daily basis but can be adapted with less-high-calorie substitutes should one wish to eat them more frequently.

  3. Newell says:

    Aesthete, I was reminded of your new blog when I ran across this this group:
    Wondered if you know them? Definitely check out the recipes on the site. I found them through: Both seem right up your alley. Love the theme for this year’s symposium: Cured, Fermented and Smoked Foods.

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