Easy as (Tomato) Pie

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Hey, what’s up with that phrase “easy as pie“?

Could it be that the person who coined it never actually had to make pate brisee?

Last Tuesday, at Trinity Bellwoods Farmers Market (my current fav among farmer’s markets and not only because of the cheese), I bought some fabulous organic tomatoes for 50 cents a pound. They were pockmarked and misshapen, but really, just as good. (and I must say that regular prices for organics, at a time when tomatoes are proliferating, seem a tad out of whack. One booth was selling heirloom tomatoes for $1.50 each!).

I loaded up my bag. “Glad to see someone buying up those tomatoes,” said Tomato Girl.

“Oh yeah. Perfect for tomato pie.”

“Tomato pie?” echoed the girl, and frowned, like I planned to do something illicit with her tomatoes. “How do you get the tomatoes to set?”

After a few more minutes of conversation I realized she thought I was talking about a sweet pie. “No no,” I corrected her. “This is a savoury pie. I top it with cheese and olives. It’s great. It works best with fresh tomatoes so I only make it at this time of year. You should try it.”

She frowned again. “Oh, I don’t do crust.” I think I detected a shudder.

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The thing is, this recipe is easy as pie. The crust, possibely originating from some 1950’s church cookbook (although passed onto me by The Anti-Poverty Organizer) is made in the pie pan. No rolling required! My friend who came over for dinner the other night said he enjoyed its “sandy texture”. Whatever!

All I know is, this pie was blessed therapy for me after a crap week. Mixing the sauce as it reduced was a gentle, comforting task, even as my landlord placed macabre neon-pink mouse poison traps throughout my apartment while I was doing so. You see, this pie is such a joy to work on that, while you’re making it, nothing can get you down! And, your dinner guest will love you forever.

The tomato pie was eaten in the company of a dear old friend on my deck in the sensual humid heat of late-August. The organic tomatoes, spiced with garlic and my homegrown basil and parsley, made for a sweet and smooth filling. A week’s worth of work and (unrelated) heartache dissolved as we talked and ate all evening, and then went for a walk in the cooling drizzle of a summer rain.

What unusual, illicit, conventional, comforting, sensible, extravagant, noble, or practical things have you been doing with the fresh tomatoes in your garden or neighbourhood? I’d love to hear…

Tomato Pie

Filling & Topping:

3 lbs. (approx. 6 cups) fresh tomatoes, chopped
1/2 tspn salt
1 onion, sliced
2 tbspn butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan
a handful of fresh basil, chopped
same amount of parsley, chopped
12 black olives, pitted and sliced
1/2 lb mozzarella, sliced
3 tbspn olive oil

In a medium-sized pot, saute garlic in olive oil over medium heat. When softened, add tomatoes, salt, herbs, a grind or two of pepper. Simmer over low heat until thickened and reduced by half (about an hour).

Meanwhile, thickly slice the onion, then saute in butter in a frying pan with 1/4 tspn salt

Once crust is made, sprinkle parmesan over bottom of pieshell. Add the sauteed onions. Cover with tomatoe sauce. Place sliced mozzarella on top and sprinkle with love slices.

Bake for about 35-40 minutes, or until the filling seems more-or-less set (it will set further after you take it out of the oven). Let stand for at least twenty minutes before serving.

Crust
(You can make this while the sauce is simmering)

11/2 cups flour
1 tspn sugar
3/4 tspn salt
1/2 cup canola oil
3 tblspn cold milk

Mix dry ingredients directly into a 9-inch pie plate. Combine the oil and milk right in the measuring cup; beat until creamy with a fork. Pour over dries and mix lightly until just damp. Press into plate.

3 Comments

  1. I agree with you 1000% that whomever coined that phrase had never made pie (probably a man ;-)
    When we were in San Francisco we went to the Ferry Terminal Market where they were selling heirloom tomatoes for $5/lb! That’s straightup highway robbery.
    We’ve been eating our ‘maters mostly in salads, especially panzanellas because I’m crap at remembering to put the bread in the fridge so it doesn’t go stale, but I think I know what I’ll be making sometime very soon. Oh yes, tomato pie. I’ve never heard of this, but it’s the most brilliant idea ever.
    Thanks so much for sharing!

  2. Great recipe … it would help if it said at what tempurature you should bake it at! I guessed 325.

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