Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Tomato Casserole

Fresh garden tomatoes, seasoned with salt, pepper, Cajun seasoning, fresh basil and brown sugar, in a casserole made with the trinity of Deep South veggies - onion, bell pepper and celery - and topped with shredded cheddar cheese and buttery cracker crumbs.

Tomato Casserole

I recently shared a recipe from one of my round-up lists of fresh tomato recipes over on our Best Southern Recipes Facebook page and Phyllis, one of our readers there, mentioned in comments that she was still waiting on tomatoes in the area where she lived.

I could not imagine having to wait this long to have that first decent tomato, because heaven knows, even though we have a wonderful long growing season in The South, once our tomatoes are gone, we get impatient anticipating the appearance of the next summer crop!

Of course here in the heat and humidity of the Deep South, we've been enjoying locally grown tomatoes for months now, and, in fact, are winding down on the backside of our peak season, especially for Creoles, one of the most beloved tomato here in the Deep South. They are already harder to find.


If you are also a tomato lover who waits all year for those fresh from the garden tomatoes that actually taste like tomatoes, here's another way to enjoy them, in the form of a casserole. Something akin to a Green Tomato Casserole, it's another great summer side dish that will go with many casseroles and meats.

Here's how to make it.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and butter a 9 x 9 inch baking pan. Place chopped tomatoes in a large colander to drain for about 10 minutes. Combine in a bowl with the salt, pepper, Cajun seasoning, basil and brown sugar. Mix well and set aside.


Now, I'm as big a bacon lover as the next person, but seriously y'all, I do not use bacon in everything I cook, I swear! But... that said, bacon and tomato pairs so nicely that I wrote it in the recipe for all you bacon lovers, because I know y'all will fuss at me if I don't. Simply cook off a few slices and use the drippings with a little butter to saute the veggies in, then chop the cooked bacon and add that in with the tomatoes.

Wright brand bacon has become one of my top favorite bacon products. It costs a bit more compared to value brands, but is the most consistent in quality that I've found in a long time.
As much as I love bacon, my preference is just simple, pure butter for this dish. It allows the natural, fresh tomato flavor to come through. If you use bacon, just add the butter to the skillet drippings, then add the onion, bell pepper, celery and garlic; saute until tender, about 4 minutes. Add the tomatoes and chop the bacon, returning it to the pan. Mix well and warm through. Taste and adjust seasonings.


Use a slotted spoon to transfer tomato mixture to the prepared pan. The tomatoes will still generate some liquid of course, but using a slotted spoon to transfer will at least eliminate some of that. Sprinkle with the shredded cheese.


Combine crushed crackers and melted butter and sprinkle on top. You can use whatever your favorite casserole topping is here - saltines, cheese crackers, seasoned bread crumbs, panko, or even just simply extra cheese... whatever you like.


Bake at 350 degrees F for about 30 minutes, or until casserole is bubbly and crumbs are browned. The casserole will generate some liquid while cooking, so use a slotted spoon again to dish out. Serve immediately as a side dish.


These tomatoes are also very good when scooped on toasted baguette slices.


If you think this sounds yummy, I'd sure it if you'd click to pin it, tweet it, stumble it, or share it on Facebook to help spread the word - thanks!

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Recipe: Tomato Casserole

©From the Kitchen of Deep South Dish
Prep time: 10 min |Cook time: 30 min | Yield: About 4 to 6 servings

Ingredients
  • 1-1/2 pounds of tomatoes, seeded and chopped (about 4 cups)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon of freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon of Creole or Cajun seasoning (like Slap Ya Mama), or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon of fresh basil, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons of packed light brown sugar
  • 2 slices of bacon
  • 1 tablespoon of butter
  • 1 cup of chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup of chopped green bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup of chopped celery
  • 1 teaspoon of minced garlic
  • 1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 sleeve of crushed Ritz crackers (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 tablespoon of butter, melted
Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9 x 9 inch baking pan. Place chopped tomatoes in a large colander to drain for 10 minutes. Transfer tomatoes to a bowl and add the salt, pepper, Cajun seasoning, basil and brown sugar. Mix well and set aside. Cook off the bacon in a large skillet until fat is rendered but bacon is not to crisp; remove and set aside. Add butter to the pan drippings and add the onion, bell pepper, celery and garlic; saute until tender, about 4 minutes. Chop the cooked bacon and add to the skillet, along with the tomatoes; mix well and warm through. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Use a slotted spoon to transfer tomato mixture to the prepared pan, sprinkle with the shredded cheese. Combine crushed crackers and melted butter and sprinkle on top. Bake at 350 degrees F for about 30 minutes, or until casserole is bubbly and crumbs are browned. Casserole will generate some additional liquid, so use a slotted spoon to serve immediately as a side dish, or scoop on toast baguette slices for an appetizer.

Cook's Notes: If you have time, bake this low and slow - about 2 hours at 250 degrees F. It really allows the flavor and natural sugars of the tomatoes to come through. May also substitute 1 (28 ounce) can of well drained and diced tomatoes, when fresh tomatoes are not at their peak. May also substitute other crackers, seasoned bread crumbs or panko for the Ritz cracker topping.

Source: http://deepsouthdish.com

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Posted by on July 16, 2013
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5 comments:

  1. For some reason, yet to be known by me, my maters are about 3 weeks behind and I'm just now about to pick the first one. This casserole sounds delicious Mary and is going on the try list, athough as a lover of acidic tomatoes, I'd likely omit the sugar. You might enjoy the Kennedy Quiche that we make a few times each summer - http://bigdudesramblings.blogspot.com/2010/01/quiche-and-fatty-real-mens-breakfast.html

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh yes! Will definitely check that out Larry - thanks!!

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  2. I love your site. I was searching for a few good Southern recipes and voila! I found this wonderful collection in one spot. As a transplant from the balmy shores of Gulf Shores, AL to the desert plains of West Texas, I am constantly looking for things reminding me of home. Your website hit the mark. It's not only the wonderful recipes that make this site exceptional, but also the anecdotal commentary and detailed explanations. It's like sitting down with your best girlfriend and chatting in the intimate way us Southerners have. Thanks so much for giving this homesick gal a taste of heaven.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Cassandra, you are welcome, of course, but thank you SO much for taking the time to stop by and share this with me today. You are a blessing! That is exactly what I hope that my website conveys to those who visit and that authenticity is important to me. I am thrilled to know that you can feel that through my words here.

      We LOVE Gulf Shores and try to visit as often as we can since it's so close!! I am in need of a road trip now in fact. :) Have a blessed day and thank you again for taking the time to share this with me. I am truly grateful.

      Delete
  3. Our 13 y/o hates tomatoes but he'll just have to deal with it because I want to make this!

    ReplyDelete

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