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Yes, it has been a while since my last batch of recipes. Mostly because the yard woke up and needs tending. One of the things in the garden this year is a tomato plant.

Tomatoes in season are a wonderful thing, and this year, I thought I would try my hand at the reportedly easy-to-grow Romas.


They are stupidly easy to grow.


This one, singular Roma variety plum tomato plant apparently woke up about the first of July and decided “Hey, I’m a ‘mater plant, I oughta get on that!” and suddenly started producing more tomatoes than I could eat in Caprese salad, but not quite enough for a batch of home-canned marinara sauce. More on those later, if I get enough tomatoes. Considering how the joke goes, “In the city you lock your car doors to keep your radio from getting stolen, and in the country you lock your car up to keep your neighbors from leaving yet another bushel of zucchini in the back seat”, I might get there.


Two things I learned about growing tomatoes this year are you need a larger pot than you think (yes, larger than that), and marigolds are your friend. Granddaddy’s old Organic Gardening magazines were where I first learned that you want to grow the two together. I’m going to spring for the half-barrel planter next year, and instead of two marigolds, I’ll probably put a half-dozen around each tomato plant. Right now, I’m having to use the diluted dishwashing detergent spray to keep the thrips off the tomatoes.

The only downside to this dish is when tomatoes are in season, it is hideously warm outside, making the oven an appliance you might not want to use. Luckily, this pie (unlike meringues) is not susceptible to high humidity, making it a good dish to make on a rainy day, as long as you can finish it before the afternoon thunderstorms pass. It also keeps well, so if you need it for a luncheon, make it at night after the temperature starts dropping. 

  ANYWAY, onward to the pie.

 

Slicing the tomatoes can be a problem if you don’t have a sharp knife. Most folks say to use a serrated knife to make sure you don’t crush the tomatoes, but I’ve had no problems with the chef’s knife I inherited from my mother-in-law, as long as I hone it before starting. Tomatoes are also highly acidic, and can etch metals, so make sure you wash your knife as soon as you are done with the tomatoes. Even the Raven Prince’s Knife of Cleverness can get dull if you don’t take care of it.

 

Most tomato pie recipes I’ve seen lean either to the to the Southeastern American setup of cheddar and hot sauce, or  Italianate seasoning profile of mozzarella/parmesan and basil. This first recipe is my favorite version, because if it is not forbidden to you, everything's better with bacon. However, if you keep kosher or halal, it is still really good without it. Just be sure about your other ingredients, because the cheese and mayonnaise kinda make this dish.


TCB Pie

(Tomato Cheddar Bacon Pie)

Prep time: 15 minutes Cook time: 55 to 75 minutes


Yield: Serves 6. Maybe.


INGREDIENTS

  • 1 9-inch pie shell
  • ½ cup finely chopped onion (about ¼ yellow or red onion, depending on the size)
  • 2 cups sliced tomatoes (1 pint cherry tomatoes OR 3-4 plum tomatoes OR -2 sandwich tomatoes)
  • ½ cup bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 2 cups grated sharp Cheddar cheese
  • ¾ cup mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon (or more to taste) of your favorite hot sauce
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

METHOD

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line pie shell with parchment paper or foil and beans or pie weights. Place pie shell in oven and bake it for 20 minutes, then remove the paper and beans and bake an additional 10 minutes.
  2. While the pie crust is baking, slice the tomatoes in half-inch slices (or in half if you are using cherry tomatoes) and arrange in a single layer on a plate with paper towels underneath. Sprinkle well with salt and put a layer of paper towels and a plate on top, letting them sit for twenty minutes. This removes excess moisture, preventing a soggy pie, and also seasons the tomatoes.
  3. In a medium bowl, mix together the grated cheese, mayonnaise, hot sauce, salt and black pepper. The mixture should be about the consistency of a semi-slushy snowball if you get snow, or like pimento cheese spread if you don’t.
  4. Sprinkle the bottom of the pre-cooked pie shell with the chopped onion. Lay the sliced tomatoes over the onions. Sprinkle the bacon over the tomatoes. Spread the cheese mixture over the tomatoes.
  5. Cover the edge of the pie pastry with aluminum foil to keep the edges from burning. Place in oven and bake until browned and bubbly, anywhere from 25 to 45 minutes, depending on your oven’s habits.
  6. Cool about 15 minutes before serving, to let the cheese become less dangerous. Refrigerate leftovers, but let a slice come almost up to room temperature to serve again.

The other style is a little lighter, especially if you use plain yogurt to replace the sour cream. This is the style Himself prefers, because he’s not fond of mayonnaise. If you prefer to be extra cheesy, consider replacing the sour cream with an equal measure of ricotta and add one egg.


Tomato Basil Pie

Prep time: 30 minutes Cook time: 65 minutes


Yield: Serves 6.


INGREDIENTS

 

  • 1 9-inch pie shell
  • 1 cup yellow or red onion, chopped and sauteed (about ½ yellow or red onion)
  • 1 tablespoon butter or olive oil (A mix of both is tasty and has a higher smoke point)
  • About 2 cups sliced tomatoes (1 pint cherry tomatoes OR 3-4 plum tomatoes OR 1-2 sandwich tomatoes) 
  • ¼ cup basil, chiffonade (This is about 8 large leaves.)
  • 2 cups grated cheese (mozzarella, provolone, parmesan, asiago, fontina and romano cheeses preferred)
  • ¾ cup sour cream (Can be replaced with plain yogurt, or half yogurt half sour cream)
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • 1 tablespoon parsley
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

METHOD
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line pie shell with parchment paper or foil and beans or pie weights. Place pie shell in oven and bake it for 20 minutes, then remove the paper and beans and bake an additional 10 minutes.
  2. Start the onions to caramelize - this will take about 30 minutes, but needs watching. Use a wide, thick-bottomed sauté pan for maximum pan contact with the onions. Coat the bottom of the pan with olive oil and/or butter. Heat the pan on medium high heat until the oil is shimmering. Add the onion and stir to coatl. Spread the onions out evenly over the pan and let cook, stirring occasionally.
  3. While the pie crust is baking and in-between stirring your onions, it’s time to prep the tomatoes. Slice the tomatoes in half-inch slices (or in half if you are using cherry tomatoes) and arrange in a single layer on a plate with paper towels underneath. Sprinkle well with salt and put a layer of paper towels and a plate on top, letting them sit for twenty minutes.
  4. To chiffonade the basil, stack the leaves on top of each other, roll them up like a cigar, starting at one end slice the "cigar" crosswise in thin slices. If you have a nice couple of delicate leaves at the end of the sprig, set them aside to use as a garnish.
  5. In a medium bowl, mix together the grated cheese, sour cream, oregano, garlic, parsley, salt and black pepper. The mixture should be gooey, and not quite hold together, but not soupy.
  6. Spread the onions in the pie crust, followed by the tomatoes, then the basil, and finally the cheese mixture.
  7. Cover the edge of the pie pastry with aluminum foil to keep the edges from burning. Place in oven and bake until browned and bubbly, anywhere from 25 to 45 minutes, depending on your oven’s habits.
  8. Cool about 15 minutes before serving, to let the cheese become less volcanic. Refrigerate leftovers, but you might want to toast a slice rather than reheat it in a microwave

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