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Harvest delight: Tomatoes in a cheese-biscuit cobbler

Recipe: Onions, garlic add to this summer side dish

Yes, there are tomatoes under that cheesy biscuit topping. This cobbler is one recipe worth turning the oven on for.

Yes, there are tomatoes under that cheesy biscuit topping. This cobbler is one recipe worth turning the oven on for. Kathy Morrison

Five various tomatoes
Only the bottom left tomato needed peeling.

Cobbler is a summer thing, and this tomato-packed cobbler is about as summery as you can get.

Given to me by a dear friend, the recipe first appeared in Martha Stewart Living magazine, but I've tweaked it over the years, changing the tomatoes, the cheese and a few other things. Instead of several pounds of cherry tomatoes, my version uses mostly slicing and heirloom tomatoes, along with a few sauce tomatoes for thickening. I like Cheddar cheese in this, but Gruyere or Monterey jack works also.

I wait to make the cobbler until I have a good variety of tomatoes and then try to find a day when it's not too hot, because the oven has to be on for nearly an hour. However, it's worth it, believe me.

Recently I also cut down the serving size, because the first version makes too much for two people. If you'd like to check out Martha's original, which serves 6 to 8, find it here.

Tomato cobbler with cheese biscuit topping

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

1-1/2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion, chopped or slivered 

3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced or minced

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 to 4-1/2 cups cored and quartered tomatoes (any combination of heirloom, slicing, paste or halved cherry tomatoes), some seeds removed,  only thick skins peeled

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Tomato mixture in casserole dish
Tomato-onion mixture ready for topping

Topping:

1-1/3 cups all-purpose flour

1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 teaspoon coarse salt

6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

2/3 cup shredded cheese, plus 2 tablespoons for sprinkling on top

1 cup buttermilk, plus more for brushing on topping

Instructions:

Prepare a 2-quart casserole by lightly coating it with butter or oil spray. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat, then add the onions and cook until they are soft and starting to turn brown, about 20 minutes. Add the garlic, 1 teaspoon salt and a grind or two of black pepper, and continue cooking for 3 minutes. Let cool.

In a large bowl (or in the pan if it's big enough), toss the onion mixture, the tomatoes, 2 tablespoons flour and the red pepper flakes. Scrape the filling into the prepared casserole and set aside while you make the topping.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter or two knives, or rub in with your fingers, until small clumps form. Stir in the 2/3 cup shredded cheese, then add the 1 cup buttermilk, stirring with a fork or spatula until a dough forms. (It'll be sticky.)

Cobbler with circle of raw dough ready to bake

Use a large spoon to place mounds of biscuit dough on top of the tomato mixture around the edge of the casserole dish, leaving the center open -- see photo at right. (If you have too much dough for your dish, the extra can be baked as drop biscuits.)

Brush the biscuit dough with additional buttermilk, then sprinkle on the remaining cheese. Bake until the biscuits are golden brown and the tomatoes are bubbling, 45-50 minutes.

Let the casserole cool on a wire rack for about 20 minutes before serving.

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Garden Checklist for week of May 19

Temperatures will be a bit higher than normal in the afternoons this week. Take care of chores early in the day – then enjoy the afternoon. It’s time to smell the roses.

* Plant, plant, plant! It’s prime planting season in the Sacramento area. If you haven’t already, it’s time to set out those tomato transplants along with peppers and eggplants. Pinch off any flowers on new transplants to make them concentrate on establishing roots instead of setting premature fruit.

* Direct-seed melons, cucumbers, summer squash, corn, radishes, pumpkins and annual herbs such as basil.

* Harvest cabbage, lettuce, peas and green onions.

* In the flower garden, direct-seed sunflowers, cosmos, salvia, zinnias, marigolds, celosia and asters.

* Plant dahlia tubers. Other perennials to set out include verbena, coreopsis, coneflower and astilbe.

* Transplant petunias, marigolds and perennial flowers such as astilbe, columbine, coneflowers, coreopsis, dahlias, rudbeckia and verbena.

* Keep an eye out for slugs, snails, earwigs and aphids that want to dine on tender new growth.

* Feed summer bloomers with a balanced fertilizer.

* For continued bloom, cut off spent flowers on roses as well as other flowering plants.

* Don’t forget to water. Seedlings need moisture. Deep watering will help build strong roots and healthy plants.

* Add mulch to the garden to help keep that precious water from evaporating. Mulch also cuts down on weeds. But don’t let it mound around the stems or trunks of trees or shrubs. Leave about a 6-inch to 1-foot circle to avoid crown rot or other problems.

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