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For a Customizable Appetizer, Turn to the Lovable Brown Betty

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It's that time of year to gather for a game watch with friends, so we partnered with NatureSweet® Tomatoes to share a handheld recipe for brown bettys that you can stuff with cheese, herbs, mayo, and cherry tomatoes.

Game day food is serious business around these parts, but I've been known to get in a rut or two near the end of the season. At our house, when I'm feeling a little uninspired, we usually fall back on some combination of pizza, sandwiches, chips, dips, and cold drinks when we have people over to watch a big sporting event.

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And I’m not here to say that there’s anything wrong with those go-tos. But sometimes I want one dish that stands out—one that will make me feel good that I've gone the extra mile to earn the appreciation of my hungry crowd. (As long as I don’t end up exhausted before the game even begins.)

Cherry Tomato Brown Bettys
Cherry Tomato Brown Bettys

Enter Cherry Tomato Brown Bettys: They're worth every one of the very brief 15 minutes that goes into assembling them. Traditionally, a brown betty is a baked fruit dessert assembled by layering sliced apples and buttered crumbs made from expiring bread. I reimagined the brown betty in savory appetizer form, with a filling that reminds me of tomato pie. The crusts are completely inspired by Deb Perelman’s strawberry brown bettys on Smitten Kitchen, in which she cleverly presses sandwich bread into muffin tins to form the individual crusts.

I’d be willing to bet that you’ve never had a brown betty for the big game (and if you have, well then, you fancy), but here’s why they’re very much in the spirit of game day: they’re easy to pick up and eat; they play well with any appetizers the neighbors might bring over; and they can be made fully in advance and rewarmed to serve. (Any leftover tomatoes can be plopped onto a vegetable tray for extra snacking.)

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Chop to it and fill those bettys!
Chop to it and fill those bettys! Photo by Julia Gartland

And the savory brown betty is also totally open to improvisation—here are a few notes and riffs to get you started:

  • Store-bought white sandwich bread works best because it’s soft and pliable. This isn’t the time to buy an artisan loaf!
  • Swap the mayonnaise with ricotta if you’re mayo-averse. If you’re on the fence about the mayo, try them as written. The combo of cheese and mayo is really, really good.
  • Sneak in some cooked sausage, salami, or pepperoni to the filling for a more calzone-like take.
  • Have some plates and napkins handy. While you can eat them out-of-hand, things could get a little messy.
  • Play around with the cheese and herbs: substitute some or all of the mozzarella with aged cheddar or fontina, or the basil with a few teaspoons of minced chives, thyme, or oregano.
  • For a tidier two-bite version, cut eight slices of sandwich bread in half, and press each half into mini-muffin tins (keep the bake time and filling the same). You’ll have 16 brown bettys, perfect for eating in front of the TV.

If the thought of serving something called “cherry tomato brown bettys” at your next game day party leaves you feeling a little too dressed-up, then call them whatever you like—say, mini tomato pies, or bacon-tomato-cheese tarts. No matter what, I predict they’ll all be gone by halftime. Pizza, your long winning streak is about to end.

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Cherry Tomato Brown Bettys

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Serves 8
  • 8 slices white sandwich bread, crusts removed
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus additional for brushing the muffin cups and both sides of each bread
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise (ricotta can be substituted)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup basil, sliced, plus 1 to 2 tablespoons extra for serving
  • 1 cup fresh, good quality mozzarella, shredded
  • kosher salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup panko
  • 2 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled (optional)

It's that time of year to gather for a game watch with friends, so we partnered with NatureSweet® Tomatoes to share a handheld recipe—one you can make with their SunBursts® tomatoes—for brown bettys that you can stuff with all the good stuff: Cheese, herbs, mayo, and cherry tomatoes.

Tags: naturesweet, brown bettys, march madness