Heirloom Tomato Pie


I’ve been in Nashville for more than 15 years now, and I’ve learned to embrace a lot of the Southern culture. I am enamored by the slower pace, the charming brick houses, and white church steeples that peer atop the gold and amber trees during Fall. I catch myself saying y’all… and I drawl out certain words, doubling their syllables. I’ve even listened to a country song here and there, and didn’t hate it. And I may or may not have tried on a pair of cowboy boots recently.

But Southern food? Oh dear Lord, the food. Try as I might, I have not learned to love it… or even tolerate it. I don’t like the smell of fried food. I don’t like brisket or bbq sauce. I don’t like sweet potato pie and I can’t stomach even walking into a Meat & Three (which I’d never even heard of before moving south).  I take pride in the fact that I have successfully avoided stepping foot into a Shoney’s for 15 years. That alone should earn me a West Coast badge. And don’t even get me started on the copious amounts of shortening that run through the veins of true Southern women.

But this past weekend, in an attempt to celebrate the tomato… something East Nashvillians have been doing for the past nine years at what’s now known as, “TomatoArtFest“… I decided to make a VERY Southern dish… the tomato pie.  In the south, the month of August is when tomatoes are in their prime. They are the sweetest, juiciest and most plentiful. It’s funny, because up until this year, I’ve not been a big tomato fan. But I began buying from local farmer’s, and spending a little more on quality heirloom tomatoes. Then I learned that I have been killing their taste all these years by putting them in the refrigerator!  Yes, that’s right… you’re not supposed to refrigerate tomatoes.  Who knew? According to Peggy Trowbridge Filippone, the author of Tomato Selection and Storage, “Refrigeration is the enemy of the tomato as it nullifies flavor and turns the flesh mealy. The culprit is a compound called Z-3 hexenel, which accounts for the tomato’s scent and taste.” She goes on to suggest that if you must refrigerate tomatoes, take them out about an hour before you will use them to allow the tomatoes time to return to room temperature. All that to say, I have become a tomato-convert!

So, quick – before August is over – go visit your local farmer’s market and pick out a nice firm but tender heirloom… my favorite is called Mr. Stripey (seen to the right over there). I mean, the name alone is worth spending $1.00 on him. But to me, he (yes, I’ve given Mr. Stripey a gender) is the sweetest, least acidic of all the heirlooms.

I loved that for this pie I used tomatoes and onions from local farmers, basil from my friend Lisa’s garden, and thyme from my potted garden!

So grab several, keep them on the counter, and enjoy!

Ingredients

1 9-inch pie shell (unfrozen)
1/2 medium to large red onion, chopped
3-4 heirloom tomatoes, cut in half horizontally, roughly chopped, to yield approximately 3 cups chopped tomatoes. Or thinly slice to layer into pie – your choice.  TIP: salt tomatoes and set aside for 20 minutes to remove extra water – important step or your pie will be soggy.
1/4 cup *chiffonade of basil (about 8 leaves)
1 tablespoon fresh thyme (leaves stripped off stems and finely chopped)
2 cups grated Swiss or Gruyere cheese
3/4 cup Just Mayo
1 teaspoon (or more to taste) of Tabasco or your favorite hot sauce
1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

*Chiffonade basil leaves by stacking them on top of each other, roll them up like a cigar, starting at one end slice crosswise in thin slices.

Preparation
Squeeze as much moisture as you can out of the chopped tomatoes, using either paper towels or place them in colander, lightly salt and let drain. The salt will draw out the excess moisture.

In a medium bowl, mix together the grated cheese, mayonnaise, Tabasco, fresh thyme and the salt and freshly ground black pepper. The mixture should be the consistency of a gooey snow ball.

Ready to Cook?
Preheat oven to 375°F.  Place pie shell in oven and cook for 8-10 minutes or longer until lightly golden.

While the pie crust is still warm, brush on your favorite Dijon mustard. Then sprinkle the bottom of the pie crust with the chopped onion. Spread the chopped tomatoes over the onions. Scatter the sliced basil over the tomatoes. Spread the cheese mixture evenly over the tomatoes, covering to the edge of the crust.

Place in oven and bake until browned and bubbly, anywhere from 25 to 35 minutes. Let cool for 35-45 minutes before slicing and serving. you can reheat it if you want but trust me on this, if you cut it too soon the “pie” shape will not hold. Don’t believe me? Check out my first slice below (5 minutes out of the oven). More like tomato stew than pie.

The Perfect Bite
Obviously the best bite is when it’s warm and the cheese is all melty… but please heed my warning above. Let it cool first so it will set into a “pie” shape when you slice it  — then reheat if if you must. But I did eat this cold for breakfast the next morning and it was pretty tasty!

The Perfect Pairing
One of my favorite red wines is a Washington Merlot called 14 Hands. And I just found out that they produce a chardonnay as well! 14 Hands chardonnay would be a perfect compliment to this rich southern pie. Bright apple and floral aromas are complimented by light notes of vanilla and sweet butterscotch. Juicy pear and apple flavors give way to subtle touches of toasty spice and ends with a soft finish. I love the butteryness of a chardonnay – which means it must be appealing to my inner-Southern Paula Dean.

The Perfect Health
Tomatoes are well-known for being low in fat, sodium and calories. But did you also know that tomatoes make your skin look great?  Beta-carotene, also found in carrots and sweet potatoes, helps protect skin against sun damage. Tomatoes’ lycopene also makes skin less sensitive to UV light damage, a leading cause of fine lines and wrinkles. Read more HERE.

Petite Butter Crust Galette filled with Dark Chocolate Ganache


These tasty little dessert galettes will amaze and impress your friends. They’re like having your own personal little chocolate pie… and who doesn’t want that? The laborious handmade buttery crust will give them that wow factor I’m always looking for… but feel free to try a pre-made crust if that’s too time consuming or intimidating. Be sure to include the egg and vanilla creamer wash and they will still be pretty delicious.

Ingredients:
Butter Crust
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling
1 cup (2 sticks or 8 ounces) unsalted butter, very-cold, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
6 to 8 Tbsp ice water

Filling
8 oz semi-sweet chocolate
6 tablespoons butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Himalayan pink salt for dusting (Kosher sea salt is fine if you can’t find this)

Egg Wash
1 med egg yolk
2 tablespoons of non-dairy vanilla creamer

Preparation:
Crust
1 – Cut the sticks of butter into 1/2-inch cubes and place in the freezer for 15 minutes to an hour (the longer the better) so that they become thoroughly chilled.
2 – Combine flour, salt, and sugar in a food processor; pulse to mix. Add butter and pulse 6 to 8 times, until mixture resembles coarse meal, with pea size pieces of butter. Add ice water 1 Tbsp at a time, pulsing until mixture just begins to clump together. If you pinch some of the crumbly dough and it holds together, it’s ready. If the dough doesn’t hold together, add a little more water and pulse again.
3 – Remove dough from machine and place in a mound on a clean surface. Gently shape into 2 discs. Knead the dough just enough to form the discs, do not over-knead. You should be able to see little bits of butter in the dough. These small chunks of butter are what will allow the resulting crust to be flaky. Sprinkle a little flour around the discs. Wrap each disc in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour, and up to 2 days.
4 – Remove crust disks from the refrigerator. Let sit at room temperature for 5-10 minutes in order to soften just enough to make rolling out a bit easier. Roll out with a rolling pin on a lightly floured surface to a large circle; about 1/8 of an inch thick. As you roll out the dough, check if the dough is sticking to the surface below. If necessary, add a few sprinkles of flour under the dough to keep the dough from sticking. Using a 3 inch round cookie or dough cutter, cut out as many circles as you can get from the surface. Remove leftovers and gently kneed together and roll out again. Repeat until almost all the dough is used  Set is 3″ rounds, two inches apart on a parchment paper covered cookie sheet and cover with a wet paper town to keep moist.

Egg Wash
Whisk together the egg yolk and vanilla creamer. Set aside.

Filling
1 – Melt the chocolate and butter in a saucepan over low heat, stirring until smooth, then remove from the heat and cool for 5 minutes. Whisk together the eggs, cream, sugar, and vanilla extract in a bowl. Whisk the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture until combined.
2 – Spoon the filing into the center of the dough round and swirl with the back of the spoon until you have an even layer, leaving 1/4-1/3 inch of dough showing.
3 – Pinch edges of exposed dough up until you form 5-6 points, creating a “bowl” for the chocolate.
4 – Use a pastry brush to wash over pie crust with the egg wash. Be sure to get the top edges.
5 – Take a small pinch of the Himalayan pink salt and spring over the chocolate.

Ready to Cook?
Place cookie sheets on a middle rack in a pre-heated 375 degree oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Ovens vary, so check your galettes at about 15 minutes to see how they are doing. The edges of the crust should golden brown. Wait 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.

The Perfect Bite
As with any baked good – the perfect bite is always best right our of the oven. But caution… wait at least 5 minutes or you will scald the roof of your mouth. I may or may not know this first hand.

The Perfect Pairing
This may be the first mixed drink I have recommended. But I have a couple of reasons for suggesting pairing this dessert with a drink called a Presbyterian. Mainly, because these little galettes are a bit of religious experience. And I am, after all, a bourbon-drinking-Presbyterian. So, it’s fitting. But also, the rich dark chocolate, sprinkled with the Himalayan pink salt has an earthy sweetness that takes you buy surprise. As does the Presbyterian with its mix of ginger ale and bourbon… earthy sweetness in a highball.  A red wine would be good, but predictable. Try these two together and thank me later.

The Perfect Health
Hallelujah! Dark chocolate may contribute to improved cardiovascular health. Packed with natural antioxidants, dark chocolate and cocoa sit in the same good-for-you category as green tea and blueberries. Read more HERE.  Plus, my friend Tracy Utley claims it cures the common cold. And I, for one, believe her. She’s a mom of 4 boys, after all.

Savory Galettes


Spinach and Smoked Salmon Galette

Zucchini, Prosciutto and Basil Pesto Galette

The beauty of the galette is that it can come in any shape, size and flavor. It’s simply a free-form rustic tart and can be either sweet or savory, or both. My favorite, not pictured here because my friends ate it before I could snap a photo, is fresh fig and goat cheese drizzled with dark honey.

These galettes are made with a “cheater” crust – store bought rolled up in a box. But it worked in a pinch. But use whatever your favorite pie crust recipe is and I’m sure they’ll be delicious and even more rustic looking. Or cheat as I did… whatever works best for you.

On a side note: I just won an ebay auction scoring a 1967 edition of Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. That deserves a blog entry all its own.. but I looked up galettes according to Julia and she made them as small individual appetizer tarts! About 2″ in diameter and often a chunk of (French) cheese served as the base, topped with ham, or an egg or both. Then wrapping the crust around and baking – things of perfection, I’m sure.

So there’s a few extra ideas for you. Listed below are the recipes for the two galettes pictured above. If you try your own version please come back and post it on this blog so we can all benefit from your culinary genius!

Each galette serves 3-6 people depending on whether you are serving it as an entree, a side or an appetizer. TIP:  You’ll notice that both galettes call for homemade ricotta. Please, please, please do me a favor and don’t buy that pasty store-bought stuff. Click on the link provided and you’ll see just how very easy it is to make your own. And once you do – you’ll never eat store-bought again – I promise! Try making the ricotta a day or two before and it won’t feel like such a big job all in one day.  One batch of ricotta should be enough to make roughly three galettes.

Ingredients
Galette #1
1 roll of store-bought pie crust
1 cup homemade ricotta
1 large egg
1 half small sweet onion – finely diced
1.5 cup baby spinach leaves (washed w/stems removed)
3/4 cup smoked sockeye salmon (or whatever your favorite smoked salmon is)
1/4 pine nuts
pinch of fine sea salt
pinch of ground pepper
egg whites for brushing on crust

Galette #2
1 roll of store-bought pie crust
1 cup homemade ricotta
1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese – divided
1 large egg
1 tsp of garlic paste or very finely minced garlic
1 tablespoon of pesto
1/2 cup of red bell pepper – julienne
1/2 zucchini slices (roughly 8-10 dials)
1 sheet of prosciutto – sliced into strips lengthwise
pinch of fine sea salt
pinch of ground pepper
egg whites for brushing on crust

Preparation
Galette #1
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or spray with non-stick spray. Parchment paper is best because it will help to transfer the galette to a plate later.

Roll out a pie crust onto your work board and use your rolling pin to stretch and smooth it out. This should give you an extra inch of pie crust. Place the crust onto the cookie tin.

In either a stand mixer or using a hand mixer, blend together the ricotta, the egg and diced onion.  Add the salt and pepper. Don’t over-beat… it should look like cottage cheese when you’re done.

Place 1/2 of your spinach leaves in a single layer, forming  circle in the center of your pie crust. You should leave at least 2″ of crust edge showing.  Spoon your blended ricotta and egg mixture on top of the spinach leaves. Spread around with a spatula making an even layer, not exceeding the spinach leaves (as in, still leave 2″ of pie crust available).  Now put another single layer of your remaining spinach leaves on top of the mixture. Then your final layer is the Smoked salmon and pine nuts. Peel salmon into small thin strips and scatter evenly on top of the spinach leaves. Scatter pine nuts across the top.

Gently fold the 2″ crust up and over the layered smoked salmon. It will not cover the whole thing and will leave roughly a 3-4″ whole in the center uncovered (see photo above).  The finished shape will be rustic and rarely the same. Sometimes they’re very round, sometimes more triangle or square. It doesn’t matter… I think the more non-uniform the better.

Brush the outside of the pastry with the egg whites. You can also use melted butter if you prefer.

Galette #2
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or spray with non-stick spray. Parchment paper is best because it will help to transfer the galette to a plate later.

Roll out a pie crust onto your work board and use your rolling pin to stretch and smooth it out. This should give you an extra inch of pie crust. Place the crust onto the cookie tin.

In either a stand mixer or using a hand mixer, blend together the ricotta, the egg, garlic, pesto and 1/2 of your Parmesan cheese. Add the salt and pepper. Don’t over-beat… it should look like cottage cheese when you’re done.

Spoon your blended ricotta, pesto and egg mixture forming a circle in the center of your pie crust. You should leave at least 2″ of crust edge showing. Spread around with a spatula making an even layer. Now put a single layer of of the prosciutto strips on top of the mixture. Then scatter the red bell pepper strips as the next layer. You can be neat or haphazard it’s up to you. Then layer your thin zucchini slices, starting from the outside and working your way to the middle in a circular pattern. Sprinkle the top with the remaining Parmesan cheese.

Gently fold the 2″ crust up and over the layered zucchini. As mentioned before, it will not cover the whole thing and will leave roughly a 3-4″ whole in the center uncovered (see photo above). It’s okay of the hole is larger, as long as there’s a good lip of crust to keep in the ingredients.

Brush the outside of the pastry with the egg whites or use melted butter if you prefer.

Ready to Cook?
Place galette in a 375 degree preheated oven, on the middle rack for 25 minutes or until your pie crust is golden brown. On galette #1 the pine nuts should be lightly toasted. If they blacken, your oven rack it too high. On galette #2 the zucchini should be lightly browned and caramelized. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving, but serve warm.

The Perfect Bite
Cut the galette in triangles and eat just like a pizza. Take a nice big bite to be sure and get a taste of all the ingredients!

The Perfect Pairing
Serve by itself or with a lightly dressed side salad. If serving as brunch they go great with mimosas. To make mimosas simply mix 1-2-1 pulp-free orange juice with a sparkling wine such as Barefoot Pinot Grigio Champagne.

The Perfect Health
Did you know that smoked salmon is recommended By The American Heart Association? Smoked salmon is also high in Vitamin E, which is also a great antioxidant. Vitamin E can reduce or lower the risk of heart disease and has also been shown to play a protective role against cancer as well. Read more HERE.