Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Best Taste of Summer

I had other plans for this week’s post, but then this past weekend I had Tomato Pie. Wow. Tomato Pie is quite possibly the best taste of summer. There is an adorable little town just north east of here called, Lititz. I’m not the only person who likes this town as it was voted the“Coolest Small Town in America” this year by Visiting Lititz is always fun, but the only place I ever eat lunch when I’m there is The Tomato Pie Café. If you’ve ever had their tomato pie you understand why they named an entire restaurant after it.

I spent most of Labor Day weekend laboring over my tomatoes. Canning nearly 50 jars of sauce and salsa. I was dreaming about tomatoes and picking tomato seeds off of every surface in my kitchen and on my person by the time it was over. And yet, there still sat a carton of tomatoes on my porch and plenty more ripening on the vines that will not die (despite being besieged by the late blight!). I thought of Lititz and the café and tomato pie. I deserved tomato pie after my weekend of tomatodom. But there was no time to drive to Lititz, besides company was coming for dinner.

Luckily, I’d recently seen an obscene recipe for Tomato Pie on one of my favorite blogs (A Garden for the House). I printed out the recipe and ascertained that I had all the ingredients necessary. I even had a few more tomato eaters coming for dinner that would appreciate my efforts. My children were horrified at the idea of Tomato Pie. I asked them what they thought pizza was and they scowled and said, “Not tomato pie!” For once they could agree on something.

The pie turned out perfectly and I’m ready to start my own Tomato Pie Café. It was easily the yummiest thing I’ve tasted in months. My hubby had smoked a roast to go with it and while the roast would have shone on its own (there’s a lot of unintentional rhyming going on in this sentence), no one even noticed the tender, delicious grass fed meat because we were too busy swooning over the tomato pie.

Please, please, please, if you cook nothing else this month, make a tomato pie. You will e-mail me and thank me. I know this. Don’t put it off – the tomatoes are in their last throes and right now you can get the tastiest heirloom tomatoes available at any farmer’s market. (Or you can stop by my house and pick some up for free!)

I tweaked the recipe a tiny bit. I made the biscuits from scratch (recipe below) and I substituted plain yogurt for half of the mayonnaise. I also doubled down on the basil because I love it so and have three varieties thriving in my garden. It’s important that you leave time for the pie to stand after baking. If you don’t, it won’t set up properly. Don’t skip that step.

Enjoy! And don’t forget to write and thank me!

Classic Tomato Pie (from the blog A Garden for the House)
Ingredients for one 9-inch pie
10 biscuits from a 7.5 oz package (or make your own*)
2 large, perfectly ripe tomatoes, thickly sliced (I used three)
Kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper
Fresh basil leaves (as many as you like), sliced into thin strips
1 cup mayonnaise (I used ½ Cup mayo and ½ Cup plain yogurt)
1 cup extra-sharp cheddar cheese (shredded)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Lightly spray a 9-inch pie plate with non-stick spray. Then press the biscuits against sides and bottom of plate to form a crust. Layer thick slices from 2 large tomatoes on the dough, and give them a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Then toss on a handful of freshly-chopped basil. Top the pie with one cup mayonnaise combined with one cup shredded cheddar cheese. Bake for 30-35 minutes on the lower-middle rack of a preheated 375-degree oven. To insure a firm, not runny pie, let rest for 30 minutes before serving.

*Recipe for Homemade Buttermilk Biscuits (from Make the Bread, Buy the Butter)

1 Tablespoon cream of tartar
1 ½ Teaspoons baking soda
5 Cups flour
1 Tablespoon kosher salt
½ Cup plus 2 Tablespoons cold lard or 10 Tablespoons cold butter, cut into pieces
2 Cups cold buttermilk

Sift the cream of tartar and soda together in a large bowl (or just throw them in and stir like I did – who wants to get out their sifter that’s a pain).
Whisk in the flour and salt, then add the fat.
Rub the mixture between your fingers of use a pastry cutter (fingers are faster and more fun) until half is coarsely blended and the remaining pieces are clumpy.
Add the buttermilk and stir until a sticky dough forms. If it seems dry, add a bit more buttermilk. (this is the point at which I squished about half of the dough into my pie pan to make the crust for the tomato pie, continue reading if you want to know how to make the biscuits, which I did with the other half of the dough for those wary children who were afraid of tomato pie – “more for me!”)
Turn the dough onto a floured surface. Knead until it forms a ball. Flatten the dough and roll out until it’s ½ to ¾ inch think.
Cut the dough into biscuit rounds. Place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake until golden at 450, about 15 minutes.

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