Tomato pie is a Southern thing, and since I had never had it, I kept my eyes peeled for sightings of the dish on menus at restaurants, and sure 'nuf, I spotted it at multiple restaurants in Charleston, South Carolina. All I had to do then was wait for ripe summer tomatoes to make my own pie. Tomatoes have lots of juice, so to avoid a soggy pie, be sure to salt and drain the tomatoes in a colander for at least 30 minutes. De-seeding and squeezing out the excess juice will go a long way, too, in avoiding a pie of liquid. Peel the tomatoes if you like, or not. I didn't. Slice or chop the tomatoes if you like. I sliced, but next time I might chop them, since a whole slice tends to pull out of the pie when you stab it with your fork.
While the tomatoes are draining, roll out a single pie crust. Most tomato pies only have a single bottom crust, but I've seen versions with a top layer, too.
Thinly slice a small to medium sweet onion, and coarsely chop a handful of fresh basil leaves.
Par-bake the pie shell, then put down a layer of tomatoes, onions, basil, pinch of salt and crank of black pepper, than repeat with another layer.
Grate sharp Cheddar cheese and mix with mayonnaise. I lessened the amount of mayonnaise than most tomato pie recipes call for, creating a mixture very similar to pimento cheese (minus the pimentos), my very most favoritest cheese spread in the whole world.
Trust me, the results are not weird or gross. You know when you make that first, simple, homegrown tomato sandwich of just tomato, mayo, salt, and pepper, and the mayo you slathered on the bread mixes with the tomato juices to create the perfect summer sandwich? Same thing here, folks.
Bake in the oven, and this glorious pie is what comes out. So simple, the baked pie retains the freshness and just-from-the-garden tomato flavor that defines summer. I ate the entire pie by myself in one day, that's how good it is.
I can't think of a better way to use up the summer tomatoes that are coming in right now. The traditional recipe is great, but it's easy to make this pie your own. Substitute sour cream for the mayo, or just use grated Cheddar without a binder. Use a different kind of cheese. Use different herbs. Caramelize the onions. Add bacon, if you must. Just be sure to use sweet summer tomatoes.
adapted from "Putting on the Grits" by the Junior League of Columbia, SC
1 9-inch pie shell
4-5 large fresh tomatoes, thickly sliced
1 medium sweet onion, thinly sliced
12 or so large fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup mayonnaise (I'm loyal to Duke's)
1 1/2 cups sharp Cheddar cheese, grated
- De-seed tomatoes by squeezing or pushing out the seeds with your fingers. It doesn't have to be thoroughly de-seeded (that's where the flavor is), but you'll want the majority of the liquid out to avoid a soupy pie. Salt the tomato slices, and let sit in a colander for at least 30 minutes to draw out extra moisture.
- Bake pie shell for 10 minutes at 375 degrees. Remove from oven and let cool a few minutes.
- Place a layer of tomatoes and a layer of onions in the pie shell. Dot each layer with the basil leaves, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Repeat until all onions and tomatoes are used (I got two layers).
- Combine mayonnaise and cheddar in a bowl, seasoning to taste with salt and pepper. Spread over the top of the pie (hands work best).
- Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until the top of the pie is browned. Cool slightly and serve.