Tomato Casserole

Tout droit tomate

New Orleanians rave about Creole tomatoes, which can only grow in a certain part of south Louisiana where the soil is “just right,” usually in the Plaquemines Parish region. Creole tomatoes have an amazing concentrated tomato flavor, including a bright acid kick. If you can get them, they’re perfect for this simple no-cook salad, but if you don’t live in the area, use your favorite heirloom variety―the juicier and tangier the better. Creole Tomato season typically lasts from early Spring to late Summer.

This is a great side dish to serve during the summer. You can substitute Italian sausage for the ground beef if you wish.

Tomato Casserole

Serves 6

3 Tbs vegetable oil
2 cups chopped onions
1 bunch green onions, chopped
1 cup chopped bell peppers
1 cup chopped celery
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb ground beef
6 Creole tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cayenne
1 tsp dried oregano leaves
1/2 tsp dried sweet basil
1 cup fine breadcrumbs
6 Tbs butter, melted
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

In a large heavy pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onions, green onions, bell pepper, celery and garlic. Cook, stirring, until they are soft, about 5 minutes. Add ground beef and cook, stirring often, until brown. Add tomatoes, salt, cayenne, oregano and basil. Cook, uncovered, over medium-low fire, stirring occasionally, one hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pour mixture into a baking dish. Sprinkle top with the bread crumbs, then drizzle with butter. Sprinkle cheese on top. Bake 15 minutes or until cheese melts.

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