Saturday, September 22, 2012

Tomato Pie

When I was a kid, I used to hate tomatoes.  I would only eat them in my mother's spaghetti sauce or in pizza, transformed into the tomato sauce that really just served as a platform for cheese and sausage.  I would infuriate my father by picking them out of a dish and arranging them around the side of my plate so that there was a ring of red clumps standing triumphantly at the end of the meal.  I can still see the shaking of his head in embarrassment when the waiter came and took the plate away.  I don't think I started enjoying tomatoes until college.  While others were exploring new hobbies and social scenes, I was expanding my horizons in vegetables.  

Which led me to this recipe I found in my church cookbook.  Tomato Pie.  Could something sound more perfect for the end-of-summer bounty of tomatoes?  The beauty of local cookbooks is that you know the recipes are solid enough to have someone put their name by it knowing that the audience enjoying the recipes will see them on a regular basis and can challenge them should something go wrong.  The sometimes challenging side of local cookbooks is that the recipes are often classics that have been adjusted throughout the years -- changes that may not have made it to the cookbook.  Eventually recipes are memorized and the original recipe card long forgotten until one thinks to add it to a compilation cookbook at which point the changes aren't listed.  I've learned that one should always be encouraged to adjust, improvise and be ready for some quick thinking when it comes to making something from one of these homegrown works.  This recipe, for instance, just said to 'prebake the crust.'  I tend to need explicit directions when it comes to recipes so this led me to a frenzy of trying to figure out how long does it take to 'prebake' a crust?  What temperature should the oven be at for this step.  Do I use beans/rice/pie weights? And so on.  Googling really helps in these instances.

Once any kinks are worked out, and the adjustments fine tuned to your family's taste, you know they will be solid addition to your recipe cache.  After all, even if a cookbook hasn't been through the months' of recipe testing that the mass produced cookbooks have, they have been through a lifetime of enjoyment for some family you know and therefore as legit as Martha Stewart's.  

Tomato Pie
Adapted from the Beth Eden Lutheran Church Cookbook, Volume 1 
Note - the amount of mayonnaise and cheddar cheese below are adjusted to what I think would work since the original amounts were not enough to cover the entire 9 inch pie - hence the thinness of my topping in the photos.  I imagine greek yogurt, cottage cheese, or some other base would work as well with the shredded cheese.

1 (9-inch) refrigerated pie crust, unbaked
3 large tomatoes, peeled; sliced*
Salt & pepper to taste
1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
3/4 cup mayonnaise
2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Partially bake pie crust and let cool (I did this for ten minutes, uncovered, using pie weights, but would probably recommend 12 - 15).  Layer tomatoes in bottom of pie crust.  Sprinkle tomatoes with salt, pepper and basil.  In a small bowl combine the mayonnaise and cheese.  Spread mixture evenly over tomato slices, sealing edges of pie crust.  Bake for 45 minutes or until the crust is a golden brown and the top of the pie seems set.  Let cool for at least 15 minutes before serving.

*The original recipe called for 4 large tomatoes but I quickly realized I would only need three of the big ones I bought.  I used the boil-for-thirty-seconds-then-dump-in-ice-water method to peel them.  I also seeded them to try to get as much moisture out of them as I could.  As I cut them I put them in a strainer to let any extra moisture out.  I was very concerned about a soggy crust and although my crust wasn't as flakey as I would've liked -- I chalk this up to the cooking time needing to be longer than the original 30 minutes the recipe called for.  

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