Earlier this summer, I stopped at a farmstand in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom as I made my way back to Maine after a family reunion. The stand was closed, as it turned out, but the farmer was there, divvying up produce for her CSA members, and she invited me inside.

Although it was early August, she was surrounded by bushels of hefty green tomatoes (a mystery: why hadn’t she let them ripen on the vine? There was still plenty of time). Equally mysterious, she felt her CSA members wouldn’t appreciate the bounty. (Like celery, green tomatoes are sadly undervalued in the United States.)

Their loss was my gain. She handed me a bag of 10 bruisers and refused to let me pay for them.

There was no question that some of my haul would end up in my friend Mitchell’s Green Tomato Cake. I try to bake it at least once every summer. It sounds weird, but sure doesn’t taste so. Instead, it fits neatly into the old-timey carrot/zucchini/beet/parsnip cake category. If you want to gild the lily, you can spread cream cheese icing on top, but it isn’t necessary. Moist, dense (in a good way) and lightly spiced, Green Tomato Cake is well-suited to picnics, backyard barbecues or school lunches. It’s always a surprise and a hit.

After baking it, I still had plenty of green tomatoes, though, so I cast about for another dish that called for a lot. An interesting recipe for a savory crisp that I’d tried years ago came to mind. The recipe came from “Fearless Baking,” a cookbook written by Maine resident Elinor Klivans in 2001; at the time, I lived in New York City and had no idea I’d one day put “Maine resident” in front of my own name, too. My then-fella had loved the casserole, but not me. I had liked the concept better than the dish. “It doesn’t add up,” I’d scribbled in a note next to the recipe. “It has potential.”

The time had come to realize that potential. In the kitchen, I chopped up 4 cups of green tomatoes, shucked 2 ears of corn, minced, sauteed and stirred, adapting Klivan’s recipe very freely. Forgive my bragging, but I hit a home run.

Raw filling for Savory Green Tomato-Cornmeal Crisp awaits topping and baking. Photo by Peggy Grodinsky

SAVORY GREEN TOMATO–CORNMEAL CRISP

Recipe adapted from “Fearless Baking” by Elinor Klivans. For the chili pepper, use one of whatever heat level appeals to you. I find jalapeno too mild here, but it’s your call.

Serves 4-5

GREEN TOMATO FILLING

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion, sliced

1 fresh chili pepper, minced

1 garlic clove, minced

4 cups chopped green tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

Kernels from 1-2 ears corn

3 tablespoons chopped cilantro (both tender stems and leaves)

1/4-1/3 cup vegetable stock

1/2 teaspoon salt

Pepper, to taste

CORNMEAL TOPPING

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup coarse-ground cornmeal

1 tablespoon sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

Pepper, to taste

6 tablespoons butter, melted

Generous 1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar or Monterey Jack

1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter an 8-by-8-inch square pan or a deep pie plate.

To make the filling, heat the oil in a medium-sized saute pan. Add the onions and the chili and saute over low heat until softened, about 10 to 15 minutes. (You do not want crunchy onions here. Trust me.) In the last minute or two, stir in the minced garlic and let it soften until fragrant.

Add the softened onion mixture to the green tomatoes in a bowl. Add the kernels, cilantro, chicken broth and season with salt and pepper. Stir to combine. Pour into the prepared baking pan or pie plate.

To make the topping, put the flour, cornmeal, sugar, and salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Whisk to combine. Add the melted butter, stirring with a fork until the mixture is evenly moist and crumbs form. Add the cheese and pecans, tossing to distribute. Sprinkle the topping over the green tomato mixture.

Bake until the tomatoes are tender, the filling bubbles at the edges, and the topping is golden brown, about 45 minutes. Let cool 5-10 minutes before serving.

Green Tomato Cake. Try it, you’ll like it. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

GREEN TOMATO CAKE

From Mitchell Davis’ “Kitchensense: More Than 600 Recipes to Make You a Great Home Cook.”

Makes one 9 by 13-inch cake, enough for 12 to 16 servings

2 cups sugar

1 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled

3 large eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1 cup raisins

2 1/2 cups chopped green tomatoes, in 1/4-inch dice

1 cup chopped toasted walnuts

1 cup shredded coconut

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter a 9-by-13-inch casserole and dust it with flour.

Beat together the sugar, butter and eggs in a large bowl. Beat in the vanilla. Slowly mix in the combined flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg. The batter will be quite stiff, like a paste.

Using a wooden spoon, stir in the raisins, tomatoes, walnuts and coconut. The batter will loosen slightly. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing out the top.

Bake for about 1 hour or until the cake has risen, set, pulled away from the sides, and springs back to the touch. Cool before eating.

Related Headlines

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under:

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.