RECIPE

Capture the taste of Southern summers with a white cheddar and cornbread-topped tomato crumble

The best way to eat tomatoes is raw over the sink. This is very close second

By Ashlie D. Stevens
Published July 30, 2021 5:29PM (EDT)
Cherry tomatoes in green plastic crate (Getty Images/Emilija Manevska)
Cherry tomatoes in green plastic crate (Getty Images/Emilija Manevska)

Living in the South, it doesn't actually feel like summer until your garden or the farmer's market is bursting with ruby red tomatoes. The most perfect way to eat them is, of course, the simplest — bite into it like an apple and feel the taut, slick skin give way to juicy and acidic flesh. From there, you can add a variety of accoutrements (or fixins, as my grandmother likely would've said with a wink). 

The perfect tomato sandwich, for instance, is just white bread, Duke's mayonnaise and a sprinkle of salt. You can get more complicated with tomatoes from there, obviously, and I often do — blitz them into salsas and sauces, stuff them with wild rice and herbs, put them in a pie crust — but they really are always best when I keep seasonality in mind. 


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Since tomatoes scream "summer" I wanted to pair them with a dish that does so just as loudly and effortlessly: fruit crumbles. I was inspired after reading Sohla El-Waylly's "Magic Ratio of Turning Any Fruit into a Crumble" for Food52. 

"Fruit crumbles are endlessly forgivable, no structural integrity necessary," El-Waylly writes. "You can run wild and free and create whatever crumble is calling your name."

While tomatoes are botanically a fruit, I had to make some adjustments to lean into the tomato's bright, savory flavors, but her ratio for the crumble topping — which leans on fat and "add-ins" for flavor and fun — is spot-on here. I kept my add-ins Southern-inspired and used torn cornbread, which gives this savory, cheesy crumble a hearty and toasty topping. 

Tomato Bake with a White Cheddar and Cornbread Crumble Topping
Inspired by "Sohla's Magic Ratio of Turning Any Fruit into a Crumble"
Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients
Filling

  • 4 ½ cups of sliced tomatoes (cut them roughly into eighths)
  • 2 tablespoons of salt 
  • 1 tablespoon of red pepper flakes
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil 
  • 2 teaspoons of oregano

Topping

  • 1 cup of flour
  • ½ of cornmeal
  • ⅔ cup of grated white cheddar cheese
  • ⅔ cup of cornbread, torn into 1-inch cubes 
  • 10 tablespoons of butter cut into ½-inch pieces, plus extra to prepare the baking dish 

Directions

1. Butter a standard pie dish or a small baking dish and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the tomatoes, salt, red pepper flakes and oregano. Toss in olive oil until fully coated and combined. Place inside the pie dish. 

2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal and butter. Using your fingers, mix until it takes on a sandy consistency. Add the white cheddar and cornbread and stir until just combined. Spread over the tomatoes.

3. Bake until the tomato juices are bubbling around the edges of the pie dish and the topping is firm to the touch and golden, about 25 to 30 minutes. Let the crumble cool for about 15 minutes before serving. 

 


Ashlie D. Stevens

Ashlie D. Stevens is Salon's deputy food editor.

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