08/21/13 • TOMATO PIE
From the Aug./Sept., 2013 Garden & Gun
Every year around this time I begin to recognize with an internal thud that the season of fun is fast coming to an end. I seem to arrive at this realization later than most (many of my friends and family have been wringing their hands over this indisputable fact for weeks already) but eventually the truth creeps in, even for me. And so once again only a few more weekends to be enjoyed before the arrival of Labor Day. Of course, it’s a recognition that brings with it a certain kind of pressure—to do, see, and savor all the things I love most about summer before the window slams shut for another nine months. And being a food-fixated sort of person, by “savor” I mean eat, so lately I’ve been zeroing in on the fresh fruits and vegetables that won’t be easy to find in a few months’ (or even weeks’) time. All of which is a long-winded way of saying in the last few weeks I’ve been eating as many tomatoes as possible, prepared in as many different ways as I can identify.
Of course, a really good tomato requires no preparation—simply slice it, sprinkle it with a little salt and pepper, and you’re good to go. Nevertheless, even the most beautiful specimen of tomato-hood can benefit from some culinary intervention now and again. Just consider this recipe for tomato salad, which is a simple enough preparation to allow the glories of a ripe tomato to come shining through, but that thanks to the addition of basil, capers, and a shallot vinaigrette is given just enough something extra to make it truly revelatory. This is a new recipe discovery for me and already it’s a favorite—one I intend to make again and again (though as with most recipes calling for fresh tomatoes, I wouldn’t bother if the produce isn’t truly something special).
Slightly more involved is this recipe for tomato pie. I love savory pies, and I love that this one is essentially a delicious tomato salad (in addition to a pound of sliced heirloom tomatoes the filling calls for vinegar, olive oil, goat cheese, and basil) baked in a pie shell. What’s more, the recipe allows for a frozen (i.e. store bought) piecrust, so this is one of those impressive dishes you can throw together at a moment’s notice. In fact, if you want to fast track it even further, skip the fresh breadcrumbs called for by the recipe (and which serve as the pie’s topping), swapping them out for Panko, which has the added benefit of providing a little additional crunch.
One of the wonderful surprises of this recipe is the way the tomatoes break down during the baking to infuse the savory/salty flavor combination with a hint of sweetness. In the company of the flaky, buttery pastry dough it’s something truly special indeed—the perfect way to hold on to summer just a little longer.
—4 shallots, minced
—3 garlic cloves, minced
—4 tbs extra virgin olive oil, divided
—1 tbs Dijon mustard
—9-inch frozen pie shell
—1 lb assorted heirloom tomatoes, sliced ¼-inch thick
—3 oz goat cheese, crumbled
—1/2 oz. fresh basil, chiffonade (see note below for explanation)
—1 tbs Grenache vinegar (TRG note: If you can’t find Grenache vinegar, red wine vinegar is also fine)
—1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs (TRG note: Try Panko if you want a crunchier topping)
—1 oz. Parmesan cheese, grated (TRG note: about a ½ cup)
—Salt and pepper to taste
TRG note: Although “chiffonade” sounds like something requiring a standing mixer, in fact it’s a chopping technique used to produce long, thin strips of herbs or leafy green vegetables. In the case of this recipe, make a small pile of leaves, roll it like a cigarette, and then cut crosswise.
—Preheat oven to 400˚.
—In a small pan, sauté shallots and garlic in 1 tbs of olive oil until tender, about 3 minutes. Stir in mustard and set aside.
—Place pastry shell in a 9-inch pie dish (TRG note: following instructions on packaging about whether to thaw first or not). Layer in half of the tomatoes, and season with salt and pepper; spread shallot mixture over top. Add goat cheese and half of the basil, distributing evenly. Layer in remaining tomatoes, and season with salt and pepper. Drizzle 1 tbs each of olive oil and vinegar over the tomatoes; top with remaining basil.
—In a small bowl, combine breadcrumbs, remaining 2 tbs of olive oil, and Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle evenly over filling.
—Bake 30 minutes or until topping an crust are golden brown (TRG note: I needed more like 40 minutes to achieve the desired doneness).