Tomato Pie for a Crowd

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Tomato Pie, like Pimiento Cheese, is one of many fabulous culinary treasures of the South. Basic tomato pies combine the goodness of ripe tomatoes, with melted cheese and a crunchy pie crust. If you add to that bacon, onions, basil, and cheese in the crust, now you’re talking about a DELUXE and savory tomato pie.

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Like for pimiento cheese, there are many ways to make a tomato pie. Some have the cheese on the bottom, and the tomatoes on top and some have it reversed.

 

The key to making a great tomato pie, in fact, the only must-do after you gather colorful heirloom tomatoes (see Tomatoes: The Crown Jewels of the Summer Kitchen Garden)


is to core, slice, salt, and drain the tomatoes to divest them of their watery juice and thereby prevent a soupy, soggy, messy pie.

My favorite way to make tomato pie is with a crunchy cheese crust and tomatoes that are piled high and deep on top.

This pie’s problems are that there is never enough to go around, definitely not enough for seconds, and too many calories in the crust for an “everyday” meal. To fix these problems, I first tried to develop a larger pie (lasagna pan-sized) without a crust. However, I found the soft texture of the tomatoes and melted cheese demanded a crunchy crust, so I added the crust back, but only on the bottom, and loaded the dough with nutty parmesan cheese. My family loved it.

Yield: Makes one 9 x 13-inch pan, 10-12 servings

Pie Crust Ingredients

¼ cup cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
½ cup grated parmesan, somewhat packed
1 stick (½ cup) very cold or frozen butter, sliced into many pieces
4 tablespoons ice-cold water

Tomato Filling Ingredients

5 pounds ripe heirloom tomatoes, sliced ¼ inch thick
1 teaspoon sea salt
12 ounces unflavored bacon, about 12 strips
1 pound sweet onion (red or yellow), sliced thinly
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup homemade breadcrumbs
20 large or 30 medium-large leaves basil, chiffonade
½ cup mayonnaise (not the low-fat, sweet, or whipped varieties)
1 pound mozzarella cheese, shredded
½ cup parmesan cheese, shredded

Game Plan
I’m not going to lie about the amount of prep work needed for this recipe; this pie takes time. I streamlined the process by buying already shredded mozzarella and parmesan cheese and by using homemade breadcrumbs from a stash in the freezer. As a time-saver, you could forego the homemade cheese crust and use a single layer, pre-made roll of uncooked dough, reshaped to fit in a 9 x 13 pan. Or, you could make the cheese crust version the day before and store it uncooked in the fridge.

1) Prep Mise en Place for Pie Filling

Slice tomatoes about ⅓ inch thick. Place in a colander, add 1 teaspoon of salt and gently mix to distribute the salt. Place a weighted object on top of the tomatoes to help squeeze out the juice. I put a collection bowl under the colander to capture the juice and save for something else (like soup broth). Gently stir and squeeze the tomatoes every 5 or 10 minutes. Let them continue to drain while you finish the prep work.

 

Chop the bacon into two-inch pieces. Sauté until cooked, then drain the fat, and pat the bacon dry with paper towels.

 Thinly slice the onions. Salt very lightly with a pinch of salt and sauté in 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat for about 10-15 minutes.

 

If you don’t have a stash of homemade breadcrumbs​ in the freezer, make some now in the food processor.

Stack, roll and cut basil into thin ribbons.

 

2. Prep Mise en Place for Pie Crust

3. Make the Pie Crust
Add the flour, cornmeal, salt, and parmesan to a food processor with the regular blade attached. Pulse 2 or 3 times to blend. Add the butter slices and pulse 7 or 8 times until you can see little chunks of butter covered in flour and meal.

Add the chilled water and pulse a few more times until dough is just blended and forms pea-sized balls. I know this doesn’t look like it is blended enough, but as those little balls melt, they create steam that causes the puffiness in a flaky crust. We want them to melt in the oven and not in the food processor which is why we keep the dough cold and underworked.

Dump the crumbly dough onto a sheet of parchment paper. Fold the right side of the paper over the dough and roll it with a rolling-pin. Now fold the left third of the paper over the dough and roll again. Notice how you can still see the chunks of white butter in the dough in the third picture.

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Roll the dough out, between two sheets of parchment paper until it is at least 9 x 13 inches.  Test for proper size by laying the pan over the dough to see if it fits.

Remove the top sheet of parchment paper and flip the dough over into the baking pan. Center the dough by using the edges of the top sheet of parchment paper. Once centered, remove the top sheet of paper.

Trim the dough and use the trimmed pieces to patch the crust until it fits in the pan neatly. Use the tines of a fork to poke holes in the crust. Lots of holes. This allows air to escape while baking, so you don’t end up with a lot of air bubbles.

Preheat the oven 375º. While it heats, place the dough-lined pan in the fridge to chill for the 15-20 minutes it takes to heat the oven. This is a necessary chilling period.

Bake for 15 – 20 minutes, or until crust is golden brown. About 10 minutes into cooking, open the oven door and add a few more fork pricks into any bubbles that have formed in the crust. Allow crust to cool for 5-10 minutes before filling. Remember, the goal is not to have a soggy crust once we add the filling. Therefore, some cooling down is necessary.

4. Prepare the Tomato Pie Fillings
While the crust is cooking, remove the tomatoes from the colander and gently squeeze out the excess moisture with your hands. Pat the tomatoes dry with paper towels.

Combine the mayonnaise, cheeses, and basil in a mixing bowl. Stir in the onions (red or yellow) and bread crumbs.

5. Assemble and Bake the Pie
Here’s what you have now: tomatoes, cheese and onion mixture, bacon and cooked cheese pie crust.

Add the cheese filling to the cooled crust and then add the bacon.

Arrange the tomatoes over the top. Lightly drizzle a little olive oil over the tomatoes and some cracked pepper and sea salt.

Bake for 50-60 minutes. Pie is done when the filling is bubbling, and the tomatoes are lightly browned.

Dinner is served!

Related Tomato Posts
Fresh Marinara Sauce with Pasta
Gazpacho Galore
Roasted Ratatouille
Roasted Roma Tomatoes

Always check the website for the most current version of a recipe. Thanks!

© 2014-2017 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos and text may only be used with written consent.

Peperonata! (Stewed Peppers, Tomatoes, and Onions)

Five years ago, I posted this picture on Facebook of peppers I had just harvested from my backyard garden.

Within minutes of posting it, I received a message from my Sicilian friend Francesco Strazzanti, with the following message, “Peperonata!”

Francesco is a fantastic cook; when he talks, I listen. I had never heard of peperonata. When I Googled it and learned it was a stew made with sweet bell peppers, onions, and tomatoes, I realized I knew exactly what peperonata was — I just never knew it had a name.

The core ingredients are all pretty much the same, a variation of vegetables typically grown in a summer Italian kitchen garden: tomatoes, peppers, onions, zucchini, eggplant, garlic, basil, and parsley. These are MY VEGGIES!  I garden just to watch these beauties grow and then to have a quiet kitchen in which to prepare them in delicious and creative ways. The bonus is the connection I feel to my mother and grandmothers when I make their recipes.

Peperonata! 

Peperonata is the kind of dish you could make a big batch of every week and have in the fridge to use as you plan meals.

You could serve it over pasta for dinner or as a side dish alongside grilled sausages or chicken.

You could serve it over a slice of crusty bread with melted mozzarella or goat cheese for lunch.

Or, you could serve it scrambled with eggs for breakfast. This last way was one of my favorite foods to eat when I was a teenager. My grandmother in Baltimore used to make it for me all the time. She scrambled the eggs in olive oil and stirred in the peperonata at the end. Yum.

Yield: 8 cups

Ingredients:

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¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, about 3 cups cleaned and sliced
3 pounds bell pepper, about 10 medium-sized, or 10 cups cleaned and sliced.
1 level tablespoon chopped garlic, about 4 or 5 cloves
2 pounds juicy, ripe, tasty, tomatoes, or 4 cups cleaned and rough-chopped.
2 teaspoons sea salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh oregano or the leaves from about 8 stems
¼ cup chopped fresh basil or the leaves from about 6 stems
2 tablespoons fresh mint or the leaves of 4 long stems
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, or juice from ½ lemon
¼ – ½ cup plain Greek yogurt swirled in just before serving

Mise en Place:

To prep the peppers: cut in half and scoop out the stem, seeds, and white pith. Chop into slices or chunks. I leave the skin on. Note: red sweet peppers make for a pretty sauce if you have a choice when buying the peppers.

 

To prep the tomatoes: cut in half horizontally, use your index finger to scoop out the seeds. Remove the stem and core and cut into two-inch chunks. I leave the skin on because the heirloom tomatoes I use (called Cherokee Purples) are thin-skinned.

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To prep the onions: remove the papery skin and white core at the base. Slice into slivers.

Instructions:
Warm olive oil in a 6-quart pan. Add onions and sauté for 5 minutes on medium heat until translucent.

Add peppers and garlic and sauté for 10 minutes, covered, on medium-low heat until soft. Stir about every 5 minutes. Do not brown peppers.

Add tomatoes, salt, and pepper, cover, and sauté for 5 minutes on medium-low, stirring occasionally. Stir in herbs. Cover, cut off heat, and let sit for about an hour to finish cooking. Stir in the honey, lemon, and yogurt. Add more salt to taste. I like to add ¼ teaspoon at a time until that moment when the salt brings out the best in all the flavors. Francesco is the one who encouraged me to add lemon, honey, mint, and yogurt. He was spot on. They boosted the depth of flavor magnificently.

P.S. It gets better every day!

How about Italian cookies for dessert?

Sesame Seed

Lemon and Ricotta

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© 2014-2020 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos, videos, and text may only be reproduced with the written consent of Judy Wright.

Spiralized Zucchini with Fresh Marinara Sauce

The garden tomato, cucumber, and zucchini glut is upon us, and I am driven to distraction figuring out ways to keep up with the produce as it comes in.

My favorite way to prepare the tomatoes is to make a batch of marinara sauce using this recipe from my blog. This is a quick sauce that can be made in the time it takes to boil a pot of water and cook a pound of pasta. The sauce freezes well and is a delight to eat in the middle of winter.

For the cukes, I’ve been making refrigerator pickles. My family adores them. They are especially delicious served over BBQ or hamburgers.

For the abundance of zucchini and summer squash, I’ve been experimenting with a Kitchen Aid spiralizer, and by experimenting, I mean having fun making oodles of zoodles at warp speed.  I spiralized all these varieties of squash in a few minutes

into this:

I’ve spiralized beautiful red and gold beets to add to salads.

I’ve spiralized apples for apple pie.

I’ve spiralized zucchini to make lasagna-sized noodles.

Even at The Nashville Food Project, where I am a volunteer chef, the prep team now spiralizes much of the thousands of pounds of donated zucchini to make fantastic meals like this one.

Spiralizers:

My first spiralizer was this simple-to-use handheld OXO device.

Later, I advanced to this deluxe Kitchen Aid attachment.

 

 

Ingredients:
1 batch of Fresh Marinara Sauce
3 pounds of zucchini (or summer squash)
Reggiano Parmesan cheese

Instructions:
Prepare the marinara sauce as described in the blog post.

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Wash zucchini or squash and cut off blossom tip and stem. Use a spiralizer to create noodles.

Add spiralized noodles to hot marinara sauce in increments. Stir in more noodles as the each batch softens and collapses into the sauce.

Cook zoodles for about 5 minutes.

Sprinkle with Reggiano Parmesan cheese and serve.

Other Recipes Using Summer Vegetables and Fruit:
Roasted Ratatouille
Roasted Roma Tomatoes
Roasted Beet Salad
String Bean Salad
Amazingly Delicious Sautéed Carrots
Fresh Marinara Sauce with Pasta
Rachelle’s Italian Sausage, Onions, and Peppers
Yummy Shepherd’s Pie
50 Ways to Make a Frittata
Ellen’s Most Moist Zucchini Bread
How to Make Grape Jelly (and grow the grapes)
Very Berry Clafoutis

LET’S STAY CONNECTED!

Follow my photos of vegetables growing, backyard chickens hanging out, and dinner preparations on Instagram at JudysChickens.

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© 2014-2017 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos and text may only be used with written consent.

Roasted Roma Tomatoes

Sometimes, you need a little color on the plate when planning a menu for a dinner party. Such was the case when my sewing group got together recently for our annual dinner party.

Fortunately, one of our friends excels at menu planning and volunteered to organize the meal and divvy up the jobs. I was tasked with making roasted tomatoes for twenty. While I have sautéed tomatoes for marinara sauce, puréed them for gazpachoand sliced them for salads, I have never cooked them as a side dish. The challenge was on.

I was a little worried about finding flavorful tomatoes in the middle of winter. I went to Whole Foods and asked an employee in the produce department which tomato she thought was the most flavorful. I loved her response: she pulled out her paring knife and said, “Let’s see.” We tried three different tomatoes, and the Romas won out.dsc_0209

After considering various ways to prepare them, I did what came naturally to me: I tossed them in olive oil, sea salt, and garlic pepper and roasted them. Clean and simple.

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Ingredients:

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30 Roma tomatoes
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon McCormick’s Garlic Pepper
1½ teaspoons sea salt
7 or 8 stems Italian flat-leafed parsley or basil, stems removed
balsamic vinegar to drizzle

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 425º
Line two roasting pans with parchment paper

Prep tomatoes: cut each tomato in half, lengthwise. Cut out the stem and use your index finger to remove the seeds.

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Place tomato halves inside a bowl, add the olive oil, salt, and garlic pepper. Toss well to coat evenly.

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Place each tomato half on baking sheet.

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Roast tomatoes for 1 to 1¼ hours. After 30 minutes, rotate pans in the oven. Cooking them this long will draw out their natural sweetness and flavor.

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Place tomatoes on a serving platter, sprinkle with balsamic vinegar and snipped parsley or basil leaves, for garnish. Serve at room temperature.

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For a few other colorful sides, try these:
Amazingly Delicious Sautéed Carrots
Sautéed Collards (or Swiss Chard) with Cranberries and Toasted Pine Nuts
Roasted Acorn Squash with Applesauce and Cinnamon
Roasted Butternut Squash, Brussels Sprouts, and Cranberries

LET’S STAY CONNECTED!

Follow my photos of vegetables growing, backyard chickens hanging out, and dinner preparations on Instagram at JudysChickens.

Never miss a post: sign up to become a follower of the Blog.

© 2014-2017 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos and text may only be used with written consent.