I came across a recipe for tomato pie a few summers ago. Tomatoes had been my top favorite vegetable/fruit—the one I happily tend to in my garden. From August to October, tomatoes cluttered my kitchen. I cooked some down for sauce, sliced them for tomato and cheese sandwiches, tossed together tomatoes and red onion , and drizzled balsamic glaze over a platter of tomato and mozzarella cheese. Tomato pie intrigued me.
Because the recipe called it pie, I was compelled to follow the steps and measurements carefully. I may be an intuitive cook, but baking demands absolute values and attention—like a chemistry experiment. I barely passed chemistry.
My first tomato pie was a flop. The pie shell was soggy, and the mayo and shredded cheddar topper was too loose and melted into the tomatoes creating an unappetizing look. I had to think of tomato pie as a dish to cook not bake.
I sliced the tomatoes just more than a quarter of an inch thick or so, lay them out on paper towels and salted them. The salt made the tomatoes sweat for at least 40 minutes to an hour. In the meantime, I browned a store bought deep pie shell (making a pie shell is considered baking), and sautéed shallots with roasted garlic, olive oil, a pat of butter, and a bit of sugar.
I pat-dried the tomato slices with a paper towel and layered them in the pie shell with the shallots. I made three layers. In a separate bowl, I shredded Irish cheddar cheese with mayonnaise. Yes, real mayonnaise—not the low fat no cholesterol olive oil kind. Real mayonnaise, with all of its sins, worked best. I mixed the cheese and mayonnaise until it had a paste-like consistency. My rubber spatula made it easy to spread the mixture on top of the layered tomatoes and shallots without disrupting the layers.
Now comes the hard part—letting the pie cook in a 350° oven without forgetting it. I set the kitchen timer, my phone alarm, and the Fitbit for 30 minutes. It needed a little more time, but I figured it was better to check on the pie early rather than later.
This haphazard recipe yielded a sweet and savory tomato pie that was absolutely irresistible. I can only cook it during tomato season when local and homegrown tomatoes are available. The grocery store tomatoes have little flavor. Tomato pie is now my household favorite. It must be cooked, not baked.
Welcome to my Blogging A-Z April 2018 Challenge. My theme is Food Stories Remembered because there is always a story when food is involved. I consider myself a good home cook with a great appetite for hearty food. I have witnessed the creation of favorite recipes in friends’ kitchens and have learned from the best—my mother, grandmother, and mother-in-law. Recipes may be included. I am remaining uncommitted on this because when I cook, I seldom measure. If you try any of my recipes, you are cooking at your own risk. Grab a glass of wine. Hope you’re hungry!
Antoinette Truglio Martin is the author of Hug Everyone You Know: A Year of Community, Courage, and Cancer. The memoir is a wimpy patient’s journey through her first year of breast cancer treatment.