Southern Tomato Pie – The Savory and the Sweet
By: Debra Chase
Pie connoisseurs are often guilty of a grievous omission in omitting the tomato from their repertoire. Tomatoes were introduced to American households a few hundred years ago and have been a family staple and favorite ever since. When a hungry eater thinks of pie, tomatoes generally don’t come up, (except for the infamous Italian variety. These recipes hail from the southern section of the pie belt and make the most of the lovely nightshades in a sweet pie and a savory pie. One will astonish due to the use of green tomatoes, and the other because of the creative use of the cheese, both will become a family favorite.
The use of green tomatoes in culinary dishes came about out of necessity. Early frosts required early harvesting creating an abundance of the green jewels in farm kitchens. Creative cooks then developed recipes using the green tomato as much as possible.
The heirloom varieties are best for these recipes as they are packed with flavor, seasonal and not well suited to shipping which is why they can only be found at the local farmer’s market during the summer months. Farmers that grow heirloom organic tomatoes work hard to make sure that the variety is untouched by transgenic (i.e., the introduction of a gene or trait from one species into another unrelated species) germplasm in their breeding programs. This practice, ironically, uses less water and offers more of that sweet, tart tomato flavor.
The Woodland Farmer’s Market 9th Annual Tomato Festival coming up on August 13th in downtown Woodland, provides a great resource for the pie ingredients, and all things tomato. Make these your own by adding raisins, currents or even nuts to the sweet pie and create interesting herb combinations by adding oregano or Italian parsley to the savory pie along with corn or bacon for added depth.
Sweet Green Tomato Pie (AKA Mock Apple Pie)
pre-heat oven to 350°
• 1 cup sugar
• 5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
• ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
• ¾ teaspoon ground nutmeg
• Dash of salt
• 3 cups thinly sliced firm green tomatoes (about 4 to 5 medium)
• 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
• 1 tsp grated lemon zest
• Pastry for double-crust pie (9 inches)
• 1 tablespoon butter
Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl, mix well. Add the tomatoes, lemon juice, and zest; toss to coat. Line a pie plate with bottom crust, add filling; dot with the butter. Roll out remaining pastry add to pie, trim edges, flute and cut air vents in the top crust or insert a pie bird. Bake for 1 hour or until tomatoes are tender, and crust is a golden brown. Cool on a wire rack to room temperature. Store in the refrigerator. Coconut ice cream would be a great accompaniment.
Savory Southern Tomato Pie
pre-heat oven to 350°
• 1 (9-inch) prebaked deep dish pie shell
• 4 large heirloom tomatoes sliced
• ¼ cup chopped fresh basil leaves
• 1/4 cup chopped green onion
• 1 cup grated mozzarella
• 1 cup grated cheddar
• 1 cup mayonnaise
• Salt and pepper
Place the tomato slices in a colander and place the colander in a larger bowl to collect the juices. Sprinkle with salt and allow to drain for 10 minutes. Alternately layer the tomato slices, basil, and onion in the pie shell. Season with salt and pepper. Combine the grated cheeses and mayonnaise together. Spread this mixture on top of the tomatoes. Make sure that it reaches just to the edge of the inside crust. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown. This is wonderful warm or at room temperature served with a tossed green salad.