Monday, July 11, 2011

From Summer with Love

A fresh tomato is just about the best present you can give. Large, ripe and smelling like the yard it came from, homegrown tomatoes are a luxury. They need very little to shine, a sprinkling of salt, maybe a little pepper or a tiny drizzle of olive oil, but that’s about it.

Two summers ago Jim planted a small vegetable garden beside our tiny house. He planted zucchini, squash, various peppers and an okra plant that produced, ironically, a single okra. He also put in five tomato plants of various types (at this point in the story he’s quick to point out someone - me - removed all the plastic identifying placards - just so you know). Jim took the role of gardener very seriously and would spend about an hour everyday after work watering, fertilizing, measuring and admiring his work. Amazingly the squirrels and the birds (and the squatters next door) stayed away and the tomato plants thrived. Jim was very fruitful, extremely so that by the end of August it seemed every lunch consisted of tomato sandwiches, evening appetizers were fried green ones and pasta sauce galore clogged the freezer. By September we couldn’t give enough of them away. I said ‘I know it’s not right, but if I don’t see another tomato until next summer, I’ll be okay’. And I kept my word, for the most part.

This tomato pie has been with me forever, much like the eggplant meatballs or my rosemary salmon. It’s just one of those dishes I do. It is at its best when made at the end of summer with the tomatoes from your yard or someone’s yard and the basil that’s going to seed with big fat leaves. It’s not complicated and the ingredient list might even say ‘duh’ but it never fails to make people happy.

Tomato Pie - Serves 6-8 as a side dish

3-3.5 lbs. tomatoes (approximately 8)

1/2 cup + 2 tbsps. basil torn

8 oz. boccacini cut in half, or a larger mozzarella cubed

3/4 cup parmesan grated

3 tbsps. olive oil

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

salt + pepper

2 sheets pastry for a 9” pie

1 egg

Seed and chop the tomatoes in to 1/2” chunks, dry them on paper towels. Slice the boccacini in half and dry on paper towels as well. You will want to remove as much moisture from the ingredients as possible. Combine the first three ingredients, toss and sprinkle with olive oil, garlic powder, salt and pepper and toss again to coat. Preheat the oven to 350. whisk the egg. Line a pie pan with one sheet of pastry and pour pie filling in, top with remaining pie shell, crimp edges to close, brush top of pie with the egg wash and using a fork prick several times to vent. Place in oven and cook for approximately 45 minutes or until the crust is golden. Cool pie for 20 minutes prior to slicing.

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