Monday, September 12, 2022

Joey's Scalloped Tomato Casserole


 Usually, whenever I decide to "just throw something together", I decide who the star of the dish is going to be, and then I see where the inspiration takes me.
The first spark of inspiration for this one came from one of my favorite Youtubers. Miss Lori over at Whippoorwill Holler was making an old timey tomato casserole with layers of fresh tomato slices and day old bread.  That sounded pretty awesome to me, especially with all of the fabulous Jersey Tomatoes available. Perfect! There's the star of my show! The problem was that I didn't have any bread or rolls or anything to add to the casserole. Hmm... 
 So I decided to do it anyway, but instead of doing layered slices of bread, I thought, "well, how about bread crumbs instead?" I had tons and tons of Panko bread crumbs, and I thought "oh, yes, THAT would work." Great. What else? Well.... you can't go wrong with something onion-y... chives, scallions, onions, onion powder.. definitely! What else? Garlic? Sure! And how about something fresh? Basil? Parsley? of course. Salt and pepper? Absolutely. It was all coming together quite nicely!
 The only question that remained was: cheese or no cheese? Since I happened to have it on hand, I went with it. I melted some cheese over the top, and I used quite a lot, actually. The result was pretty fabulous, I must say! And it turned out to be a great way to use up the few ingredients I had on hand. It would be a great way for you to use up those extra few tomatoes you have ripening on the window sill!
 Oh, and btw, it would have been perfectly fabulous without any cheese melted over the top. And it would work as a fabulous side dish, maybe with a piece of grilled fish and some roasted green vegetables. I do think the cheese turns it into a stand alone entree, though. 
 Either way, if you love tomatoes as much as I do, especially JERSEY tomatoes, you simply MUST give this one a try! Thanx again to Miss Lori for the spark of inspiration!

4 large tomatoes
3 scallions, chopped
1 large clove garlic, minced
2 tbs fresh basil leaves, minced
1 1/2 cups panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup AP flour
Salt and pepper to taste
1-2 cups shredded Mozzarella cheese 

Cut out the core of the tomatoes and cut them into large chunks. Place in a large bowl along with all remaining ingredients except the cheese. Give everything a good toss. Now place in a large caasserole dish. Top with cheese, bake at 350ºF for about 30-45 minutes, or until golden and bubbly on top. Let it sit for a good 10-15 minutes before serving. 

You can peel the tomatoes if you want to, but I just left the skins on. To peel them, cut an X in the bottom of each tomato, then plunge into rapidly boiling water for about 30 seconds to a minute. Now remove from boiling water and plunge into ice water.  The peels will slip right off. 
Don't have scallions? or garlic? or basil? Use one of the other things I mentioned. Garlic powder or garlic salt instead of cloves of garlic. Onion powder, chives,  minced onions or shallots instead of scallions. Any fresh herb you like... parsley, basil, oregano, even fresh thyme or rosemary would work. That's the beauty of a casserole. It will all work!
Yes, that's the correct amount of bread crumbs. 1 1/2 cups is a lot, but remember, this isn't just a little sprinkle on top. This is an actual ingredient in the casserole and it adds body in addition to soaking up some of the tomato juices. The flour does the same thing, especially if you add the cheese over the top. The fat from the melted cheese will mix with the flour and that's how the sauce sets up. (Look at me, always thinking!)
And finally, this was meant to be a meatless dosh, but if you that strongly about it... add some sliced sausage coins... or some diced chicken... or some pepperoni for a spicy kick. Now you've turned it into a pizza casserole!