The August farmer’s markets are ripe with the most varied and flavorful tomatoes of the year. I wait patiently all summer for the peak of the crop to hit the stands. Never are they as tasty and full of flavor than during August and September. I promised myself to buy up loads of them to use in all sorts of ways. My grandmother’s chili sauce recipe has been at the top of my “to make” list for many a season. I have always wanted the ability to reach into my pantry and pull from it my own canned tomatoes for whatever dish was on the day’s menu. And with all the ways to put a tomato to good use, no one would argue that the most delicious way to enjoy one is directly from the vine, still warm from the day’s sun – maybe a light sprinkling of salt.
There is a vendor at my local farmer’s market who had the largest selection of heirloom tomatoes I have ever seen in one place. She grows varieties I have never even heard of before. On Saturday’s excursion to the market, the temptation was there to buy way more than the three of us could possibly eat. In the end, I limited myself to just five unfamiliar varieties.
Ah, I had the best of intentions for a Sunday tomato tasting. And, well, after a long day which began with the three of us rising at 5:00am to drive my niece to the airport, followed by a morning at the flea market during the hottest day of the year, and then throw in a couple of necessary errands, and you have three exhausted taste-testers – two of whom decided that an afternoon nap sounded much more appealing than dissecting a tomato and examining it for it’s finer qualities. I, however, persevered! In the crazy afternoon heat I decided to turn on my oven and turn my heirloom tomatoes into a pie. While slicing and preparing them for their eventual resting place inside a cornmeal crust, I couldn’t resist a little mini tasting of my own. One variety in particular stood out among the rest – the Hawaiian Pineapple. Sweet, low acidity, and bursting with tomato flavor – aaahhhh, reminiscent of the flavor I remember from the tomatoes I ate as a child while sitting between rows of plants laden with fruit, salt shaker in hand, red juice running down my arm. (Not to over-romanticize a memory but it really did happen on occasion during visits to a farm belonging to a family friend.)
Each tomato variety I brought home from the market had its own redeeming qualities. I struggled against forgoing the pie and eating them in their purest form – perhaps over simple greens dressed with but a mist of olive oil and basalmic. The pie won out, mostly because I have been excited to share this recipe with all of you ever since discovering it last summer. I encourage you to try it while fresh picked from the vine tomatoes are abundant. It really deserves only the very best.
Nestled in a cornmeal crust, Heirloom tomatoes are roasted to sweet perfection atop a cheese and herb filling. Enjoy as an easy and light summer dinner along side a green salad, or serve it center stage at your next Sunday brunch.
Heirloom Tomato Pie
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt or table salt
1 stick (8 tablespoons) cold butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3 tablespoons grated manchego cheese *See Note
4 to 5 tablespoons of ice water
Pulse the flour, cornmeal, and salt in a food processor to combine. Add the butter and manchego cheese and pulse until the mixture resembles course meal with pea-size bits of butter. Drizzle in 4 tablespoons of ice water and pulse until the dough comes together. Slowly add more of the remaining tablespoon of water if necessary. Turn out onto a sheet of plastic wrap and pat into a disk. Wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 45 minutes.
Roll the chilled dough between two sheets of parchment paper to a 13-inch round. Transfer the dough to a 9 1/2-inch deep dish pie plate. Fold the overhang under and crimp the edges. Prick the bottom of the crust with a fork and refrigerate for 20 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350˚F.
Line the crust with foil and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake until the edges are golden, about 20 minutes. Remove the foil and weights and continue baking until golden all over, about 10 to 15 more minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool. Pie crust can be prepared up to 8 hours ahead.
2 tablespoons, plus 1 tablespoon olive oil
4 small or 3 large shallots, thinly sliced
2 1/4 pounds mixed heirloom tomatoes
1 1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt
3/4 cup grated mozzarella cheese
3/4 cup grated manchego cheese *See Note
1/4 cup regular or reduced fat mayonnaise
3 tablespoons breadcrumbs
3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper, plus additional for sprinkling on top of pie
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook, stirring until golden, about 15 minutes. Let cool. Meanwhile, thinly slice the tomatoes. Gently toss with the Kosher salt in a colander. Let drain, tossing occasionally for 30 minutes.
Increase the oven temperature to 375˚. (If making the crust ahead of time, make sure to preheat the oven to 375˚ before beginning the filling.) Combine the manchego, mozzarella, mayonnaise, breadcrumbs, 2 tablespoons each chives and parsley, the thyme, black pepper, and the sautéed shallots in a bowl. Spread in the crust. Arrange the tomatoes on top. Drizzle with remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and season with additional ground pepper. Bake until the tomatoes are browned, about 50 minutes. Top with the remaining 1 tablespoon each of chives and parsley.
Note: Freshly shredded (not pre-ground from the market) parmesan can be used in place of the Manchego cheese.
Yield: 8 to 10 servings
Source: Adapted from Food Network Magazine