Tomato CasseroleI 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.
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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.
Recipe: Tomato Casserole©From the Kitchen of Deep South Dish
Prep time: 10 min |Cook time: 30 min | Yield: About 4 to 6 servings
- 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
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.
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©Deep South Dish
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