Big Little Recipes

The Easiest, Cheesiest Tomato Recipe to Repeat All Summer

July 14, 2020

A Big Little Recipe has the smallest-possible ingredient list and big everything else—flavor, creativity, wow factor. Psst: We don't count water, salt, black pepper, and certain fats (specifically, 1/2 cup or less of olive oil, vegetable oil, and butter), since we're guessing you have those covered. Today, we’re getting cheesy.


A juicy, heavy tomato needs no more than a pinch of salt to turn into an afternoon snack. And, several times every summer, I do just that. But when making a meal out of a tomato, there are other ingredients to zhuzh things up.

Think: hazelnutty brown butter (and lots of it). Or a thick swipe of mayonnaise and almost-burnt toast. Or sugar, fennel seeds, and dried chiles.

Or cheddar cheese. Besides ready-to-rumble tomatoes, that’s the only other ingredient you’ll need for this Big Little Recipe.

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Top Comment:
“I just made the recipe using green tomatoes and cheddar jack cheese. I will definitely make again (pending a short nap after). As the green tomatoes are more firm, they melted into the cheese without a soupy mess. They were easy to scoop with a side of corn chips. The tangy bright acidity of the green tomatoes even managed to shine along side the spicy cheddar jack cheese. Next time I think I will include a dip of lemon-hummus to brighten and lighten the dish and top with figs for a kick of sweet. Thanks for the easy afternoon snack inspiration!”
— GratedGarlic
Comment

Sharp white is what’s usually in my fridge, but what’s in yours? A milder or yellow-tinted hunk would treat tomatoes just as well. And honestly, another variety altogether—say, Monterey jack or provolone or Gruyère—could step in too. What’s most important is that it’s quick to melt into a bubbly, gooey mess.

Photo by Amanda Widis

There’s little more to this dish than that.

You’ll slice a tomato into wedges. Toss those into a hot, olive-oiled skillet. Sprinkle with an eyebrow-raising amount of salt and pepper (the fewer ingredients a dish has, the more the seasoning matters). Let sizzle. As the tomatoes hiss and sputter, their juice will become juicier, their bottoms, singed and browned. After a few minutes, once the tomatoes are almost ready to eat, give everyone a shuffle, smother in grated cheese, and shout to whoever’s nearby that lunch or dinner is ready.

This is not a neat affair. It should be eaten straight from the skillet, untidily, unapologetically, with the cheesy tomato juice and tomato juicy cheese still bubbling.

An oil-and-vinegar salad would feel at home nearby. But even more fitting is something starchy, a slice of crusty sourdough, a mountain of fluffy rice, a tangle of egg noodles, anything to step in and soak up all that goodness.

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

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Emma is the food editor at Food52. Before this, she worked a lot of odd jobs, all at the same time. Think: stir-frying noodles "on the fly," baking dozens of pastries at 3 a.m., reviewing restaurants, and writing articles about everything from how to use leftover mashed potatoes to the history of pies in North Carolina. Now she lives in New Jersey with her husband and their cat, Butter. Stay tuned every Tuesday for Emma's cooking column, Big Little Recipes, all about big flavor and little ingredient lists. And see what she's up to on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.

20 Comments

nancyet September 6, 2020
How about some thick cut smoked bacon crumbles on top? mmmmmmmmm
 
Heather H. August 2, 2020
I usually keep extra sharp white cheddar, pre-shredded mexican blend, and american on hand at all times, but I buy several others as the need arises... medium cheddar for mac-n-cheese, pepper jack for making cheez-its, queso fresco and cotija for weekend breakfast tacos and weeknight. My 6 year old is learning to cook and very enthusiastic about it, and not a picky eater at all... I think I'm going to have to have him make this for us! Easy knife cuts, practice using a box grater, sounds perfect!
 
Jessie August 1, 2020
I made this with provolone and two heirloom tomatoes from our backyard garden. Delicious! I ate the entire thing for lunch, straight out of the pan, with Costco's pesto focaccia bread. I did not use cast iron; my nonstick omelet pan worked just fine.
 
Jessie August 1, 2020
Delicious! I ate the entire thing for lunch, straight out of the pan, with Costco's pesto focaccia bread.
 
Life O. July 26, 2020
I can't wait to make this when all my tomatoes ripen at once!

I use Cougar Gold for most everything. If you haven't had it, you must try it. It's the best sharp cheddar ever! It's orangish-white and aged and so yummy it even has crystals like Parmesan. It comes in a can! Washington State University has been making it since the 1940s. I've turned so many friends onto it that I take orders for one shipment every fall. That said, it's almost a 2lb can, so I don't usually open it for myself, I usually wait for a party. And, I'm not positive it would be super melty...I might mix in some more processed cheddar just in case.
https://creamery.wsu.edu/cougar-cheese/
 
KLove July 18, 2020
Just made this using what I had which was fresh tomatoes and already shredded cheddar. While it did get soupy, I just took some of the liquid out and kept cooking the tomatoes. I cooked them longer than required, but it turned out great! I put it over a bag of steamed white rice with carrots, corn and peas. Topped it off with green onions. Hubby and I ate every last bite!! Will def do this again! Thanks for the short recipe. That’s right up my alley. 😊
 
Lindar July 18, 2020
Beautiful recipe. I just got a block of the Hook 15 year old and that plus tomatoes from my husbands garden are going to be perfect for dinner tonight.
 
Marble M. July 18, 2020
Loved! I tried with Roma tomatoes and Kerrygold Reserve Cheddar and served layered on top thinly sliced turkey on Wasa crisp bread.
 
GratedGarlic July 16, 2020
I just made the recipe using green tomatoes and cheddar jack cheese. I will definitely make again (pending a short nap after). As the green tomatoes are more firm, they melted into the cheese without a soupy mess. They were easy to scoop with a side of corn chips. The tangy bright acidity of the green tomatoes even managed to shine along side the spicy cheddar jack cheese.

Next time I think I will include a dip of lemon-hummus to brighten and lighten the dish and top with figs for a kick of sweet. Thanks for the easy afternoon snack inspiration!
 
GratedGarlic July 16, 2020
I used Monterey pepper jack cheese with jalapeno peppers.
 
Christina July 15, 2020
This recipe was okay. I literally just made it and am eating it right now. It came out kind of soupy. I didn't use my cast iron skillet because I thought tomatoes were too acidic for cast iron, but maybe that's where I went wrong? The flavor was good, it was just soupier than I would have liked.
 
Author Comment
Emma L. July 16, 2020
Hey Christina! I usually avoid cast-iron for anything acidic that cooks for awhile, like tomato sauce, but since the tomatoes here cook quite quickly, I found it wasn't a problem. In case it helps for next time: If the tomatoes are super juicy, you can cut them into bigger wedges, so they hold together more.
 
Christina July 16, 2020
Thanks for your reply! I did cut the tomatoes in pretty small wedges, maybe that's where things went wrong. :) And that's good to know you can cook tomatoes in cast iron is fine for short durations.
 
DG July 17, 2020
Like the wedge cut, however just letting them sit in a colander (collecting the juice below for whatever use)... Remember to season with your favorite salt as you go
 
[email protected] July 17, 2020
I NEVER use cast iron for acidic foods. Changes the taste of the ingredients and causing cast iron to pit.
 
Deborah July 15, 2020
I keep very sharp cheddar normally. But I have a minimum of 4 cheeses in my drawer.
 
Author Comment
Emma L. July 16, 2020
Minimum of four cheeses sounds very right to me :)
 
Xavier July 14, 2020
Love this recipe. I usually have yellow sharp cheddar cheese in the fridge - it’s my fave. Can’t wait to try this. Cheers***
 
MowenB July 14, 2020
I wonder about subbing feta or a goat/sheet cheese? My wife has a cow's milk allergy.
 
Author Comment
Emma L. July 14, 2020
Hi! I wouldn't recommend feta since it doesn't melt very well. You could try a fresh goat cheese, crumbled into bits (just cut the heat as soon as you add it), or a buffalo-milk mozzarella?