August 10, 2010

Recipe: Tomato Pie

I came across this tomato pie recipe just after I'd eaten a delectable one at Kerby Lane Cafe in Austin, so of course I had to try making it myself. Baking layers of fresh tomatoes topped with cheese in a buttery crust created a meal whose wondrous taste we spent half our dinner conversation discussing.

The base of the pie is the kind of tomatoes that are unbelievably colorful and juicy this time of year.

Layer those guys with sauteed onions and what would have ideally been fresh basil (although dried basil worked when the real stuffed had all tragically wilted) and salt and pepper, and seal it all in with gruyere and parmesan. That plus a side salad equals a meal so very full of fresh veggie flavors.

Oh, and I made my first-ever homemade pie crust, which I found to be quite a beautiful thing. True, it took extra time, but a five-ingredient food processor action followed by rolling it out wasn't all that bad. It was plenty worth it for that buttery, flaky crust that you can only get in the homemade version (all-natural crusts from Whole Foods crusts the second best though). I failed to follow the instructions for pie weights and such and just baked it plain, so it  shrank down from the edges but wasn't too bad. Next time I will try the pie crust fitting tips I produced at work this week.
But what really inspired me to go scratch was wanting to add basil to the crust like my tomato pie at Kerby Lane. Yet another reason it's worth the effort.

Old-Fashioned Tomato Pie
Makes 1 9-inch pie

1 (9-inch) pie shell lined with your favorite pie crust or puff pastry
4 to 5 ripe tomatoes, cored and thinly sliced
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, for sprinkling
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 sweet onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup mixed freshly chopped herbs such as chives, parsley, and basil
1/2 cup freshly grated Gruyère (or Swiss)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
1/4 cup mayonnaise
freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oven to 375° F. Line the shell with foil and fill with pie weights, dried beans, or rice. Bake in the lower third of the oven for 20 minutes. Carefully remove the weights and foil. Return to the oven and bake for 10 minutes more or until light golden. Remove to cool in the pan on a wire rack.

Reduce oven temperature to 350° F. Place the tomatoes on a rack in the sink in 1 layer. Sprinkle with salt and allow to drain for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in the skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and season with salt and pepper. Cook until clear and translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. (Don’t skip this step! Not cooking the onion can make the pie soggy and wet.)

Layer the tomato slices, cooked onion, and herb in the pie shell. Season each layer with pepper. Combine the grated cheeses and mayonnaise together. Spread mixture on top of the tomatoes and bake for 30 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove to a rack to cool. Serve warm or room temperature.

Pâte Brisée (Homemade Crust)

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
1/8 to 4 cup ice water

In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour, salt, and sugar. Add butter, and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal, 8 to 10 seconds.

With machine running, add ice water in a slow, steady stream. Pulse until dough holds together without being sticky; be careful not to process more than 30 seconds. (To test, squeeze a small amount together: If it is crumbly, add more ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time.)

Divide dough into two equal disks and wrap in plastic. Transfer to the refrigerator, and chill until firm, at least 30 minutes. Dough may be stored tightly wrapped in plastic film and frozen up to 1 month.

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