The invitation read come join us at the farm for Sunday supper and bring a side dish or dessert to share. It was a gathering being given in honor of a cookbook author whose specialties are Southern desserts and Thai food so no way was I wading into dessert territory or Thailand. What do you cook for cooks? I agonized for weeks. I knew immediately my dish couldn’t be deviled eggs or potato salad because God forbid I be remembered as the one who brought salmonella to the party. I wanted something seasonal and Southern. Eureka, tomatoes! It had to be something with tomatoes because there is nothing more perfect than a late summer tomato. Tomato pie! This pie begs to be made using juicy, heavy heirloom tomatoes that need all the blazing hot summer months on the vine to develop their tart-sweetness.
Use a variety of tomatoes and the sharpest cheddar you can stand. A handful of other ingredients and you’re on your way. The pie crust – just buy one. I do still make a crust sometimes but as my cookbook author friend said to me, “why go through all the trouble, Harris Teeter makes a perfectly acceptable pie crust.” The pro has spoken. This pie is easy, quick, cheddar savory and tomato tart-sweet. It may sound like a strange dish but believe me, it’s so incredibly delicious. Some crusty bread, a green salad and a glass of wine makes for a fantastic summer meal. Enjoy.
1 deep dish pie shell, blind baked (follow the directions on the package for baking an empty pie shell)
4 large tomatoes, assorted varieties
3 small garlic cloves, chopped or roasted (I had a roasted head of elephant garlic and used 1 clove.)
1/2 large onion, sliced as thinly as possible (I used a mandolin.)
1/2 Tbs butter
8 large basil leaves, rolled together like a cigar and thinly sliced (chiffonade if you want to get all fancy)
3/4 tsp dried thyme
2 c. plus 2 Tbs. shredded sharp/extra sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 c. plus 1 Tbs. mayonnaise (I hate mayonnaise. Trust me you won’t taste it and don’t skimp on it since it’s the glue for the topping.)
- Blind bake the pie crust. Once done remove from the oven and increase the heat to 400 degrees.
- Slice off the stem end of the tomatoes and either give them a gentle squeeze to remove the seeds or stick your finger in each orb removing the seeds. I do the latter because I don’t want to end up disfiguring the tomato. Once all your tomatoes have been seeded, slice them into 1/4 inch rings.
- Place a double layer of paper towels on a tray, lay out the tomatoes and sprinkle with 1/4 tsp coarse salt. Let them sit for 10 minutes. Please don’t skip this step as you need to pull liquid from the tomatoes so you don’t end up with a soggy mess. While the tomatoes drain, prepare the onions.
- Heat a pan over medium high heat and then add the olive oil and the butter. Add the onions and reduce the heat to medium. If using fresh garlic, add it now. Cook the onions until translucent, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, you may need to reduce the heat. Don’t worry about trying to caramelize the onions unless you have a burning desire to do so. Once done, set aside.
- After 10 minutes, blot the tomatoes dry with a paper towel. It will require quite a bit of dabbing.
- In a large bowl combine the cheddar cheese and mayonnaise. Add 1/4 tsp. salt and a pinch of black pepper. (Next time I’m going to use my Jalapeño Pimento Cheese for the topping to add some extra flavor and kick.)
Assembling the pie:
7. Put about 2 Tbs of the cheese mixture into the bottom of the pie shell and smear it around. It doesn’t matter if you don’t cover the entire bottom. Sprinkle the shell with 1/4 tsp dried thyme.
8. Place a tomato slice in the center of the shell and then work your way around the shell with overlapping tomato slices. After completing one layer spread all of the onions on top of the tomatoes. Sprinkle with 1/2 of the basil and the rest of the thyme.
9. Complete another layer of tomatoes and finish with the rest of the basil. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and pepper.
10. Pat the cheese mixture onto the tomatoes. It is much easier to do this with your hands. Don’t worry, you’re in the privacy of your kitchen so no one will know you play with your food. Keep patting the mixture out until you reach the edges of the pie.
Place on a baking sheet and bake in a 400 degree oven for about 25-30 minutes, or until the pie is a nice golden brown. Once the pie has been in the oven for about 15 minutes go outside and then come back in and take a whiff. Oh sweet baby Jesus the smell is amazing.
Let the pie cool to room temperature and serve. Sorry I can’t offer any interior pie pics. I didn’t want to be that girl holding up the buffet table trying to get the perfect shot but I can tell you it was delicious and not soggy. I’m making another after my next Farmer’s Market visit.