Green Tomato Crisp

The green tomato has to be one of the brightest gems of fall baking and yet I don't think it gets its due.  Perhaps it's just so under-utilized that it never has a chance to be appreciated?  I know I didn't grow up eating green tomato desserts, or really many green tomatoes to speak of at all.  I knew about the Southern classic fried green tomatoes and I tasted the occasional green tomato relish, but that was about the extent of it.  It wasn't until my adulthood, when I was served a deliciously cinnamon-spiced green tomato pie, that I discovered this underripe bridesmaid of a tomato made the most wonderful of sweet dishes and that my life would never be the same again.

Like many folks in the Midwest, our tomato crop came quite late this year due to the heavy rains we received in early summer.  Our cherry tomatoes are still ripening on the vine, in fact, as I suspect they will until the first frost.  The three varieties of larger tomatoes we planted this year, though, have stopped turning red.  While this of course means the end of summer heroes like BLTs and Caprese salads, I for one don't linger long in mourning the end of red tomatoes.

Green tomatoes have become a favorite ingredient of mine.  I've made it known that I happen to love sour foods and this is no exception.  What's really neat about the green tomato, though, is its versatility.  It can function as a tart, vegetal component when fried or made into pickles, relishes, and sandwich spreads, all of which I can't stop craving.  But it shines the brightest and earns the most praise from me when combined with sugar and traditional fall spices and baked into something bubbling and jammy with a flavor not unlike apple pie but a tartness and texture uniquely its own.

If you're as yet unfamiliar with the glorious green tomato dessert, the easiest way to discover it for yourself is to make this simple green tomato crisp.  The green tomatoes are combined with dried cherries and fresh lemon and ginger and the oat crumb topping is buttery, crunchy, and cinnamon-flecked.

It's easy to throw together but looks and tastes totally impressive.

And, of course, there's no better way to enjoy it than with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top.  You'll just have to trust me on this one.

Green Tomato Crisp

serves 8

  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt, divided
  • 6 ounces (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted, divided
  • 6 medium green tomatoes, sliced 1/8" thick
  • 1/2 c dried cherries
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly-grated lemon zest
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 Tablespoon cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon freshly-grated ginger root, or 1/4 teaspoon dried ground ginger

Preheat the oven to 400.  In a large bowl, combine flours, oats, brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 5 ounces (10 Tablespoons) of the melted butter.  Stir well and place in the freezer just until you've finished assembling the rest.

In a large bowl, combine tomato slices, dried cherries, lemon zest and juice, vinegar, granulated sugar, ginger, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 2 Tablespoons butter.  Stir well and pour into a baking dish (I used a 9" cake pan but any old casserole dish will do.)

Remove the topping mixture from the freezer and use your hands to crumble it over the green tomato mixture.  Bake for 50-60 minutes or until the filling is bubbling and the topping is golden.  Allow to rest for 10 minutes, during which the topping with firm up.  Serve hot or at room temperature with or without vanilla ice cream.  I choose with.