Making Up For Lost Time {tomato pie}

I didn’t used to like tomatoes. I’m not really sure why. I mean, why not? Early on, I decided arbitrarily to not like a lot of things (tomatoes, New Kids on the Block, cats) but I’ve come around since. I have managed to find a way to embrace the odd cat – and aren’t they all, enjoy hearing “Hangin’ Tough” if it comes on the 80’s station and even attempt to make up for lost time when it comes to tomatoes. I don’t have many regrets in my life, but I will say that spending a good 10 years of my child- and tweenhood shunning seafood and tomatoes is my lost decade.

And, in the words of the great Gregg Allman, I ain’t wastin’ time no more. (Sidenote: add his new memoir to my reading list)

We’re nearing peak tomato time down here in Atlanta and although the ones in my backyard still aren’t in any shape to pick – even if I could find a way to keep the damn squirrels and pug from stealing them – they’re everywhere. It’s the time of year where not only are you going to find some gorgeously wacky looking ones at the EAV Farmer’s Market, there are even delicious local tomatoes at the grocery store. You can’t not find delicious tomatoes right now.

So, what do we do with them? I’ve given you some suggestions here and here, but I expect July and August to yield some pretty amazing maters, so we need more ways to eat them than that. And as such, I give you my recipe for tomato pie. A lot of recipes I’ve found either call for a ton of mayonnaise – and we know how I feel about that – or end up using basil and mozzarella and while I like those flavors, they’re just not what I think a tomato pie should taste like. So, in my attempt to mitigate the mayo and but still make a creamy, wonderful, tomato-ful pie, I use goat cheese.

Here:

  • 8-10 medium tomatoes of your choosing
  • 2 onions, caramelized
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme, minced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced
  • 6 ounces goat cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan
  • 2-3 tablespoons buttermilk or goat’s milk
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise for southern cred
  • 1 pie crust

So, let’s start at the start. Go ahead and blind bake your pie crust according to the instructions. If you want to do homemade, that’s your prerogative; I use the roll-up buggers. Set aside to cool. Turn your oven to 375°F to get it ready for the pie.

And now for the tomatoes. I have been experimenting with tomato pies for a while now and finally have come up with a good system for keeping them from being soggy without drying them out. I treat the tomatoes not unlike I would treat eggplant if I actually liked cooking and eating it – I salt them to help draw out the extra moisture.

Grab a wire cooling rack or something along those lines and top with a sheet of paper towels. Take one unpeeled tomato and slice thinly.

As you slice the tomatoes, run your fingers through the nooks and crannies and try to get out a good bit of the tomato guts. Place the slices in one layer on the paper towel lined rack and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Now, just cover those slices with another paper towel and do it all over again, making a stack of alternating tomatoes and towels until you’ve worked through your batch.

With the tomatoes done and your onions caramelized, the pie crust blind-baked and the pug frenzied, let’s prep the last piece of the puzzle – the creamy goat cheese mixture. I spent some time thinking about mayonnaise alternatives the other day and thought that I had really honed in on something brilliant when I thought that using buttermilk to thin the cheese was perfect. But when I got to the store, I decided that no one packages buttermilk in small enough containers and was drawn to the tiny, adorable bottle of goat’s milk. Lightbulb! Of course goat’s milk would be perfect here. It’s tangy, it comes in a small bottle so I don’t need to waste any, and it tastes exactly like goat cheese (wonder why). Now, that being said, if you can’t find goat’s milk, don’t want to find goat’s milk, or would prefer to just use mayonnaise and/or buttermilk here, please do so. Just make sure the mixture is at a spreadable consistency when you’re done.

In a small bowl, combine the herbs, goat cheese, milk of your choosing, mayonnaise and parmesan and mix until smooth and spready.

Let’s build our pie! Grab the crust and arrange some tomato slices in one layer on the bottom.

Now, drawing on your lasagna-making skills, spread a layer of the goat cheese mixture on top of the tomatoes and then add a layer of caramelized onions. Be sure to season throughout with salt and pepper.

Repeat.

Until you finally get to the point where there is just no more room. For me, it took about 3 layers of everything. Top the pie with the last of your goat cheese mixture and some onions and top with a generous dusting of parmesan cheese.

Now, place the pie on a sheet pan for easy removal and to capture any spillage that may happen and bake for 45 – 55 minutes until the top is golden brown and bubbly.

Now, I’m not one to let things cool. I’ve said it before. But with this – you must let the pie sit for at least 15 minutes or you’ll end up with tomatocheesecrustsoup. That’s not what we’re going for here. If you’re hungry, have a glass of milk and a piece of cheese – my mother’s answer to every “I’m hungry” that I ever uttered. In retrospect, she may have worked for the National Dairy Council.

When the time comes, and come it will, slice your pie and go to town. I think that I’ve managed to master a great balance here – sweet tomatoes and onions with tangy goat cheese. It’s delicious.

At this rate, by the time I’m 45, I will have caught up for the years of tomatolessness. Enjoy.

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