Wish Upon A Dish: Tomato Cheddar Pie ♥ Love Italian Style

September 11, 2014

Tomato Cheddar Pie ♥ Love Italian Style

I don't ever remember eating a tomato pie, let alone baking one. Probably because up till a few years ago, I refused to eat cardboard tomatoes and I had no luck growing a garden in the backyard. I basically gave up on garden fresh tomatoes and with no farmers markets nearby and not a CSA in site, when I made sauce, that was my allotment of tomatoes in my diet.

Then I started a container garden on my upper deck (no scavengers there) and have never looked back. The sun was way to hot for large tomatoes and the small grapes were all that grew, but that was alright. Those sweet babies went into everything. Salads, pizzas, fresh tomato sauces, salsas and, the best, scrambled eggs! Wow, I guess I forgot how good a tomato, picked warm off the vine, tasted.

This year our Spring started out like summer (hot!!) and not wanting to waste good money on a bad thing I planted eggplants and peppers, but no tomatoes. A few weeks into June the weather turned beautiful so I took the plunge and bought two big boy plants, four Sweet 100 cherry plants, four baby eggplants and two pepper plants. Although late in starting, this summer I harvested enough cherry tomatoes for 4 salads, one pasta primavera and a sheet pan of roasted tomatoes which are now in my freezer for later. I managed to grow 10 eggplants which are about golf ball sized and I have my fingers crossed. A pot of Swiss chard that is growing on my grill in the cooler backyard has given us two substantial side dishes and the only thing that did not grow, was the peppers. Go figure.

At least this year we seemed to be heading in the right direction but to hedge my bets, I bought a market umbrella in case next year it's another hottie. I have just the place for a pot of zucchini. I hear those plants will grow anywhere.

Now I have more Big Boys than two people can eat, only they all ripened while there was only one of us home. I certainly did not want to screw this up, I have waited 5 years for big luscious beauties.

The Nudge is in South Carolina (where it is 95°) and due home tonight. Since they were at the point of imploding and he might not have made it home in time to enjoy the Big Boys he planted before they got too soft, I made him a Tomato Pie.

Yes, bought my crust and yes, it is a double crust pie. Since pot pies must have two crusts in this house, I thought I would wow him with this beauty. For those looking to reduce their carbs, omit the top crust. The pie will still be excellent. I take my top crust off and give it to the The Nudge.

Making your first tomato pie with the last of the tomatoes calls for careful consideration of what, besides those tomatoes, should go into this pie.

Most of the tomato pies I saw on the Internet used cheddar cheese. I figured that the first tomato pie recipes posted were from Southern bloggers and down south cheddar is their choice for cheese (think pimento cheese). As the pie made the rounds, other cheeses appeared. Mozzarella (pizza pie, tomatoes, get it?) and then the Vegetarians started adding additional veggies to make it a more substantial dinner. I thought of spinach and corn (all great compliments to the tomatoes) but they would have taken away from the pure sweet tomatoes.

After all, this is a Tomato Pie. If it ain't broke...........

I was breaking tradition just adding a top crust. Sorry all you traditionalist out there. If it will make you feel any better, you have my permission to start a "hate double crust Tomato Pie" campaign on Twitter.

I had enough full sized tomatoes for two layers and in the spots between the slices, I popped a few Sweet 100's. I wanted the tomato experience in every bite.

I took the traditional way and added a small Italian influence with a sauce comprised of mascarpone, Parmesan, goat cheese, eggs, roasted garlic and basil.

I have to say that my first try was a winner!! The tomato flavor shown through, then the cheddar, and the crust. Everything else just melted into the background.

To stop the moisture from gumming the crust, I salted the tomatoes, sandwiched them between paper towels and placed a weight on them to drain. Even though I baked this pie for almost an hour, the bottom crust stayed crisp and the tomatoes were juicy.
A simple side salad of baby greens (I choose baby Romaine) tossed in a light vinaigrette rounded this very substantial summer dinner.

Tomatoes are ripe with nutrients and I think people take them for granted.
  • Tomatoes are one of the low-calorie vegetables; hold just 18 calories per 100 g. They are also very low in any fat contents and have zero cholesterol levels. Nonetheless, they are an excellent sources of antioxidants, dietary fiber, minerals, and vitamins. On account of their all-round qualities, dieticians and nutritionists often recommend them in cholesterol controlling and weight reduction diet-programs.
  • The antioxidants present in tomatoes are scientifically found to be protective of cancers, including colon, prostate, breast, endometrial, lung, and pancreatic tumors.
  • Lycopene, a flavonoid antioxidant, is an unique phytochemical present in the tomatoes. Red varieties are especially concentrated in this antioxidant. Together with carotenoids, lycopene may help protect cells and other structures in the human body from harmful oxygen-free radicals. Studies have shown that lycopene protects the skin from ultra-violet (UV) rays and thus offers some defence against skin cancer.
  • Zea-xanthin is another flavonoid compound present abundantly in this vegetable. Zea-xanthin helps protect eyes from "age-related macular related macular disease" (ARMD) in the elderly persons by filtering harmful ultra-violet rays.
  • The vegetable contains very good levels of vitamin A, and flavonoid anti-oxidants such as α and ß-carotenes, xanthins and lutein. Altogether, these pigment compounds are found to have antioxidant properties and take part in vision, maintain healthy mucus membranes and skin, and bone health. Consumption of natural vegetables and fruits rich in flavonoids is known to help protect from lung and oral cavity cancers.
  • Additionally, they are also good source of antioxidant vitamin-C (provide 21% of recommended daily levels per 100 g); consumption of foods rich in vitamin C helps the body develop resistance against infectious agents and scavenge harmful free radicals.
  • Fresh tomato is very rich in potassium. 100 g contain 237 mg of potassium and just 5 mg of sodium. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps controlling heart rate and blood pressure caused by sodium.
  • Further, they carry average levels of vital B-complex vitamins such as folates, thiamin, niacin, riboflavin as well some essential minerals like iron, calcium, manganese and other trace elements.

The tomatoes were a gift from the Mayans. In the late 1700's, a large percentage of Europeans feared the tomato. A nickname for the fruits was the "poison apple" because it was thought that aristocrats got sick and died after eating them, but the truth of the matter was that wealthy Europeans used pewter plates, which were high in lead content. Because tomatoes are so high in acidity, when placed on this particular tableware, the fruit would leach lead from the plate, resulting in any deaths from lead poisoning. No one made this connection between plate and poison at the time; the tomato was picked as the culprit.
We can credit the Italians in the 1800's (think pizza in Naples) with introducing Europe to the good things in a tomato. Woohoo, for them!! 

I am happy to say that today, I adore tomatoes, as long as they are homegrown and have flavor, but just in case we have another scorching summer, I should think about growing those zucchini, it just so happens I found a great family recipe for zucchini bread.

Cheddar Tomato Pie
makes 1-9" pie

* Pastry crust for a double crust pie, divided
* 3 large tomatoes, preferable homegrown or heirloom + cherries for filling the holes
* 4 ounces mascarpone cheese
* 3.5 ounces good cheddar cheese, grated
* 1/3 cup grated Parmesan
* 1 tablespoon instant polenta or cornmeal
* 1/2 teaspoon roasted garlic granules
* salt & pepper
* 2 large eggs
* 2 oz. goat cheese
* 1 teaspoon soy sauce
* 5 basil leaves, torn

Spring form pan
Parchment paper

Preheat oven to 375°.
Slice the tomatoes and place on a sheet pan lined with two paper towels. Salt the tomatoes and place another double layer of paper towels on top. Add another sheet pan with a large can of tomatoes on the sheet pan. Press for 30 minutes.

1. Spray the spring form pan and add a circle of parchment paper.
2. Lay 1 crust on the paper and evenly up the sides of the pan. Press the dough to the pan and into the corners.
3. Place the mascarpone, cornmeal, eggs, goat cheese, garlic, soy, basil and half the Parmesan in the processor or blender and pulse to a smooth sauce consistency (makes 1 1/2 cups).
3. Sprinkle a tablespoon of Parmesan on the crust, and then a light layer of cheddar. Layer half the tomato on the cheddar and season with freshly ground black pepper. Top the seasoned tomato slices with half the remaining cheddar and Parmesan; spoon half the cheese/egg mixture evenly over the tomatoes (3/4 cup).
4. Repeat another layer with the remaining ingredients, ending with the last 3/4 cup cheese/egg mixture.
5. Top with the other crust and roll the edges down the sides of the pan until rolled crust hits the bottom crust. Press gently to adhere. Make 8 slits in the crust.
6. Egg wash the top and edge of the dough, pepper and salt the crust and place in the bottom half of the oven, uncovered.
7. Check the pie 30 minutes into the baking period and rotate the pan.
8. Bake an additional 25-30 minutes. As soon as the juices start to bubble up the slits, remove from the oven and cool for 1 hour. Remove the pie to a plate, cover lightly with plastic wrap and serve at room temperature.

You will love this pie, I promise.

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