Tomato Pie

Actually, it’s more of a *tart*, but I have a deep-seated fear of alliterations so Tomato Pie it is.

a tart by any other name would be delicious

Our tomato plants have showered us with a delightful crop of little baby tomatoes. They aren’t midget tomatoes of the cherry variety, they are just very small, terribly adorable, perfectly proportioned infantile tomatoes. I’m not sure if they are supposed to be this minute, or if it is a freak of nature (I’ve been watching a lot of Doctor Who lately and everything is subject to being eyed as the precursor to an alien invasion) but we’re happy to have them!

Time to make tomato pie. I know, I go from describing them in all their cuteness to, “let’s eat it!” in about five seconds flat. What can I say – you have to strike while the iron’s hot.

My family has been making this dish, or versions of this dish for years and it never ceases to charm and amaze. Halfway between a gourmet pizza and a tomato tart rustique – this pie is the farm wife’s gateway to simple elegance and hunger-defeating practicality.

Tomato Pie

*makes 2 single crust pies

for the crust:

2 cups all purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup chilled butter, shortening or lard

7-8 Tablespoons ice water

for the filling:

4-5 medium sized tomatoes or 7-8 baby ones sliced

1 teaspoon olive oil

fresh basil, oregano, parsley chopped finely

cheese of your choice to top – I like mozzarella or cheddar

Oven preheated to 375 degrees

Firstly, let us make the crust. I am not a pastry expert, far from it in fact, but I can get by if need be. This is a very simple crust recipe, courtesy of my Joy of Cooking cookbook, and I find that as long as I don’t treat it like bread dough and knead the daylights out of it, it turns out just fine.

Sift together the salt and flour into a bowl then chop up whatever fat you are using and add it to the flour mix. If you have a pastry blender, now is the time to use it. Cut in the fat until the flour resembles damp sand. If you don’t have a pastry blender, or are one of these rustic people who like to do everything by hand, go ahead and use your fingers to do the job. I am one of those rustics and love to use my finger tips to spread the fat through the flour – makes me feel a little bit like Julia Child.

So – the fat is cut in, well done. Now, sprinkle the ice water over the flour and gently mix it in. If you need a little bit more water, that’s ok – but only add it by the teaspoon – you don’t want this dough to get soppy. Once the dough forms a ball that sticks together, Stop Mixing. Don’t over mix the crust, it gets tough at the drop of a hat. It’s not like a little chewiness is going to kill anybody, but we’re going for flaky. Split the dough in half and then roll each half out into a circular shape, about 9 inches in diameter. If you need to lightly flour the surface, that’s fine. Don’t over work it, try to roll it out as simply as you can. Mine stayed together pretty well without a lot of extra flour. Once the dough has been rolled out, lay it in a lightly greased pie plate. I’m not real picky about getting it up over the edges, since it’s really a tart and all, I just smoosh it into place to make a shell of sorts.


Now for the topping. This is the easy part! Brush the bottom of the crusts with some of the olive oil and then lay down your sliced tomatoes in one or two layers. Then sprinkle the herbs over the tomatoes, then sprinkle the cheese. How hard was that? Once the crust is done it’s just a lot of sprinkling. Drizzle any remaining oil over the top and then put those pies in the oven. 

They should bake about 15-20 minutes, or until the crust has browned around the edges and the cheese has melted. Remove from the oven and serve.

Delicious!

‘Tis The Season

Alright, raise your hand if you read that and then involuntarily followed it up with, “Fa-lalalaLA-lala-la-LA!”

‘Tis the season for excess produce, and that’s something to falalalala about if I ever heard one. Back home they tell people to lock their car doors, not because they were afraid of someone stealing, but there loomed the threat of overwhelmed gardeners dumping grocery bags full of cucumbers and zucchinis in unlocked vehicles. It was like farming graffiti, or a drive-by-vegging.

We always get so excited to see our plants produce their first gaudy blossom, and eat the first cucumber (probably picked at half the size it should be) in the backyard, savoring the honest-to-goodness cuke flavor store bought veggies just don’t have. Then, just a few busy weeks later, the thought of eating another cucumber is enough to drive normally responsible adults into random and often quite creative acts of cucumber dispersal. Cucumbers stuffed into an unwitting dog’s house? It happens, and it’s not a good thing.

Canning seems to be an acceptable answer for most and making pickles and relishes to last the year takes up a good half of the crop, while every salad – both green and pasta style – is lavishly adorned with cucumber slices and chunks.  Alex and I have had the luxury this year of ‘novelty’ cucumbers. They’re lovely plants and they produce handsome little gerkins one at a time that we end up eating en route to the kitchen. It often doesn’t play out this way for gardeners, however.

I went to see a friend the other day who has a hearty, well-tended garden and not two minutes into the conversation she offered me some cucumbers.

“I just don’t know what to do with them! I’ve canned all I need and they’re coming on so fast…” She sounded a little bit desperate, her eyes were wide and her hands were stretched out as she implored me. “Take Some. Please.”

And that’s how I ended up with my own personal shopping bag full of garden-fresh cucumbers.

I decided to make refrigerator pickles. I can’t honestly say I even really knew what they were before I did a little research, but they seemed simple enough and perfectly answered my need for cucumber preservation without a canner. I found a rather basic formula and made up a recipe for refrigerator pickles that came out wicked tasty and different from anything I’ve ever had.

Lavender and Black Pepper Pickles

1/12 cup white distilled vinegar

1/4 cup brown sugar

4 teaspoons salt

2 cups hot water

1 Tablespoon minced garlic

1 Tablespoon whole black peppercorns

5-6 small springs of fresh lavender

4-5 medium sized cucumbers

The pickle scene needs some new blood, I couldn’t find a recipe for pickles that didn’t have dill in it, surprisingly enough, and I like to think outside the box. This is definitely outside the box. The finished pickles have a deep, herbal, garlicky taste with a smarting of pepper. Delicious.

This recipe makes one quart of pickles, so the number of cucumbers you need will vary depending on how big they are. Wash the cucumbers then slice them. I like a heartier pickle, so I sliced mine on the hefty side. Set the slices aside. Heat 2 cups of water to just under boiling. Next add the vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper corns and stir it well until the sugar and salt have dissolved. Let the liquid cool down to about room temperature before adding the cucumber slices, lavender and minced garlic. Stir everything together and then use a plate to weight the cukes down in the brine. Cover, then put the whole bowl in the fridge overnight.

The next day, you’re ready to “can” them up. I used a sterilized quart canning jar, but I suppose you could ‘recycle’ any adequately sized glass jar with a tight lid. Fish the pickles out of the brine and put them in the jar, then fill the jar with brine. Cap them and they’re done. These keep in the fridge for up to a month.

Happy Harvest!

pretty pink girlie food

I eat beets, and unlike eating french fries, potato chips (which reminds me that I have a bag hiding under the sink that I stashed away before they put me on drugs for my teeth… Oooooo.) eating beets makes me feel like a good person. Beets clean the liver, or so they tell me, and I love to eat food that’s good for my insides; it’s just Good.

*broad smile*

I also like Hummus, so I decided to make a snack that would be good looking, good for my insides (Ravaged, no doubt, by the pain killers and antibiotics…) and good tasting…

Pink Hummus.

Um, yes please!

Gaw-jess.

Here’s how it went:

2 cups of *cooked* chick peas

1 cooked beet, peeled and chunked

1/8 cup of lemon juice

3-4 Tablespoons of olive oil

1/2 teaspoon of salt

2 cloves of garlic, peeled

This, my lovelies, is a tahini-less hummus. I found the beet to be quite adept at making the whole mess smooth and creamy though, as well as adding a delightful earthiness to the flavor- I don’t think the tahini was missed at all.

Everything was tossed into my darling four cup food processor and then chopped to pink oblivion. It was so beautiful.

This is what it looked like when all was said and done…

I’m going to go eat it now.

bye.