Genius Recipes

Sarah Leah Chase's Scalloped Tomatoes

By • September 5, 2012 • 22 Comments

Every week -- often with your help --  FOOD52's Senior Editor Kristen Miglore is unearthing recipes that are nothing short of genius.

Today: Capturing all of tomatoes' greatness, to the last drop.

scalloped tomatoes

Tomatoes may be the most fickle of summer produce. Year-round, you can probably find an acceptable zucchini or eggplant or cucumber, if you really couldn't wait. Frozen sweet corn suffices. And does anyone really miss just-picked okra when it's gone?

But a ripe tomato will never be right, unless it's hot outside and has been for a good long while. Why else would we dedicate the better part of a grocery aisle to canned tomatoes in every form?

tomatoes

coring tomatoes  cored tomatoes

So you can't let a single good one escape. When you're not packing your BLTs with slabs of the best ones, or spooning brown butter over them, Sarah Leah Chase has a good place to stick them: Scalloped Tomatoes.

sarah leah chase  cold weather cooking

The result is a bit like making a simply perfect tomato sauce, then eating a big bowlful without the distraction of pasta.

It's mostly tomatoes, sharpened with a little garlic and basil, with just enough bread tossed in to sop up the juices. And some cheese on top, because cheese is always good on top. Merrill called it "hot panzanella".

scalloped tomatoes

Ina Garten loved it, adapting it herself, although she toasts the bread cubes in olive oil instead of bacon fat. To each her own fat. Deb Perelman from Smitten Kitchen puts a poached egg on top. And it was sent my way by FOOD52er chefpatty (thanks for the tip!).

Often we think of scalloped dishes (a.k.a. gratins) only in terms of potatoes, which grasp onto any liquid they can find and thicken up of their own accord. But juicier vegetables can be gratinéed too -- you just need a plan for all that liquid. You can salt them to draw out what you can, or throw in some par-cooked grains -- or, as you see here, bacon-toasted croutons.

hot panzanella

Unlike the slow-roasted family of tomato recipes, in which they are gradually transformed into candy, this one is cooked at high heat, and barely so. It tastes like little more than a fresh, ripe tomato, warmed up. Chase even adds two tablespoons of sugar to the casserole to compensate, but I've decided that you don't need it.

On that note, I have a few other recommendations:

-- Chase calls for romas, but use the best tomatoes you can find -- beefsteak will be juicier, but not problematically so. Throw in another handful of bread cubes if you want.

-- Use a skinny baguette, so you get more cubes with crusty edges -- they're fun to bite into.

cheese

-- And finally, don't go crazy with the cheese and basil -- you want this to be all about the tomatoes. Pack the basil into its half cup lightly and, if you're developing a thick layer of cheese on top (this will depend on your baking dish), just stop. Eat any extra cheese or feed it to the dog.

scalloped tomatoes

Sarah Leah Chase's Scalloped Tomatoes

Adapted slightly from Cold Weather Cooking (Workman Publishing Company, 1990)

Serves 6

3 tablespoons bacon fat (or olive oil)
2 cups (1/2-inch diced) French bread, preferably a crusty baguette
16 plum tomatoes, cut 1/2-inch dice, about 2 1/2 pounds (or the best tomatoes you can find)
1 tablespoon minced garlic (about 3 cloves)
2 tablespoons sugar (optional -- we skipped it)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup julienned basil leaves, lightly packed
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

See the full recipe (and save and print it here).

scalloped tomatoes

Got a genius recipe to share -- from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected].

Photos by James Ransom

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Tags: genius, Sarah Leah Chase, Ina Garten, Smitten Kitchen, tomatoes, summer, gratin, hot panzanella

Comments (22)

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almost 2 years ago Sally Abbott

Sounds fabulous, wish I wasn't reading this in October :(

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almost 2 years ago Panfusine

Made this yesterday with some Indian 'Pav Bhaji' spice (threw in some diced sweet onions and ginger garlic paste)..It was awesome. thank you Sarah Leah Chase for this great recipe!

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almost 2 years ago Midge

Holy moly, this was fantastic. I was too lazy to render bacon fat, so I used olive oil and swapped a handful of smoked mozzerella for some of the parm. Thanks for digging this one up chefpatty and Kristen. Can't wait to make it again.

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almost 2 years ago beekeeper

Had this with grilled sausage for dinner tonight. It was a hit with everyone.

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almost 2 years ago Suzanne Zarrilli

Sarah Leah Chase...where've you been? Im a food groupie for many years:Nantucket days, two cookbooks. Am still a big fan. Nice to have you back
Suzanne Z

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almost 2 years ago A Girl Defloured

Oh my. I love Sara Lee Chase's cookbooks--never tried this one though. I'm obsessed with tomatoes and cannot wait to try this.

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almost 2 years ago JulieBee

You say tomato, I say tasty!
This was so yummy. It reminded me of a gorgeous tomato bread soup I ate in Florence years ago.
Tremendously easy and delicious.

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almost 2 years ago stingraystirs

This looks delicious! I'm excited to try it. My Grandmother used to make a similar recipe - she layered her end of the summer "bruisers" (tomatoes not pretty enough to serve sliced, or in a salad), with corn and slices of white bread slathered with butter, sugar, salt and pepper. It's the ultimate comfort food in my house and is also good served cold the next day for breakfast.

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almost 2 years ago leigh.bartolomeo

I made this last night, and topped it with an oven roasted herbs de provence crusted salmon. It was super crazy good! I had left overs...thank the lord, (my hubby almost cleared out the whole dish), and this morning I slightly rewarmed them and topped them with an over medium egg....I could eat that every morning! So good, thanks for sharing, this recipe is going in the rotation for sure.

Miglore

almost 2 years ago Kristen Miglore

Kristen is the Executive Editor of Food52

So glad you liked it! That salmon sounds like a perfect match.

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almost 2 years ago Cinnamin

What a great way to gratin! I have too many tomatoes in my frige and was wondering what to do with them- was beginning to tire of pasta and sauce. I am going to make this tonight!

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almost 2 years ago kathy pastore

This looks terrific, can't wait to try it.

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almost 2 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Perfect! On my menu plan for this weekend. And I can hardly wait. ;o)

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almost 2 years ago Greenstuff

Chris is a trusted source on General Cooking

Love that cookbook! In case anyone's wondering why there's a tomato dish in a book called Cold Weather Cooking, it's in a chapter called something like "So Long, Summer." She has some great soups in that book too.

Miglore

almost 2 years ago Kristen Miglore

Kristen is the Executive Editor of Food52

Thank you for clarifying that!

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almost 2 years ago Whats4Dinner

We LOVE tomatoes, especially late summer heirloom. So I'm vegan now and was wondering do you think it would be just as good without the parmesan on top?

Miglore

almost 2 years ago Kristen Miglore

Kristen is the Executive Editor of Food52

I do think it would still be good! The tomatoes are really what it's all about.

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almost 2 years ago fozziebayer

I make a similar Jacques Pepin recipe that's even easier--just toss together all the ingredients and toss in a gratin dish. It's damn good.

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almost 2 years ago fearlessem

I can attest that this recipe is indeed genius. I make it toasting the bread in olive oil, and to me it winds up tasting like all the best parts of a chicken parmesan sandwich, without the chicken. Seriously, its mega delicious!

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almost 2 years ago NBrush

Okay, I'm in. Our home grown tomatoes are taking forever to ripen, but when they do....

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almost 2 years ago stitchinfox

I am wondering if you leave the skins on or not...It sounds wonderful. I think I'll have to try it! Jan

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almost 2 years ago Panfusine

I have 1/2 a bushel of farm fresh plum tomatoes just waiting to be 'dished' out.. Perfect! (just need a baguette!). Even as I type my 'Thank you'..my mind is buzzing with the Sanskrit Blessing "Anna (recipes) Daata Sukhi Bhava' (May the one who gives food (recipes) live well)..