Too many tomatoes? Bake 'em in a pie
Tomato Pie is a classic Southern dish made in late summer when the tomato plants are heavy with ripe fruit, but everyone has had their fill of tomato sandwiches and salads. It is essentially a pie shell filled with fresh sliced tomatoes and sweet onions, topped with mixture of shredded cheese and served with a sprinkle of fresh basil.
It's not fancy and generally is not served in restaurants, but you can find it at potluck suppers, farmers markets, roadside stands and most every rural kitchen. My mother didn't make tomato pie, but my aunt did. It was at her house that I experienced some of my favorite Southern church dishes, and this is one of them.
I love tomatoes so much that tomato pie is a no-brainer, but I wanted to take the idea of the original and make it a little more to my taste. I substituted a conventional pie crust for the more traditional Bisquick version. You can use your favorite recipe or buy prepared pie dough. I pre-bake the shell to take the raw flour flavor out of it and make the bottom crisp.
I also add a sweet Vidalia onion to the filling. I like to slice both the onion and the tomatoes instead of chopping them, but if you like smaller pieces in the filling, go ahead and chop. Many tomato pies don't have enough tomatoes in them, so I load up on them, choosing small tomatoes so my slices aren't any larger than 3 inches in diameter. If you don't have any garden tomatoes, I find that the dark purple Kumato tomatoes work great.
I reduced the amount of mayonnaise used in traditional recipes because I wanted a cheesier top. Most recipes call for 1 cup of mayo, but I halved that amount and only use as much as I need to bind the cheese. If you like a looser top, add more mayonnaise, but I think you'll like it my way, as the liquid from the tomatoes provides all the moisture you need.
The biggest change that I made was adding two kinds of mustard to the cheese topping. That one little change makes a huge difference. The mustard elevates the pie and creates a depth of flavor that takes this homegrown dish from simple to spectacular.
Dijon Tomato and Sweet Onion Pie
Start to finish: 1 hour (15 minutes active)
9-inch raw pie shell, fitted in a pan
1 small Vidalia or other sweet onion
3 to 4 small heirloom tomatoes
1 1/4 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 1/4 cups grated Gruyere cheese
2/3 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon whole-grain Dijon mustard
1 heaping teaspoon smooth Dijon mustard
Ground black pepper
1 small bunch fresh basil (about 10 leaves), thinly sliced
Heat the oven to 350 F. Bake the pie shell until lightly golden, about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool. Leave the oven on.
While the pie shell bakes, thinly slice the onion and tomatoes. Arrange the tomato slices on paper towels to absorb excess moisture.
In a medium bowl, mix together both cheeses, the mayonnaise, both mustards and a generous pinch of pepper. The mixture should be thick, but spread easily.
Spread a thin layer of the cheese mixture over the bottom of the pie shell. Top the mixture with half of the onion slices, then half of the tomato slices, followed by the remaining onions, then the remaining tomatoes. Spread the rest of the cheese mixture over the tomatoes. Bake until browned and bubbly, 40 to 45 minutes.
Remove the pie from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes. Cut into slices, then top each serving with some of the basil.
Nutrition information per serving: 470 calories; 300 calories from fat (64 percent of total calories); 33 g fat (14 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 65 mg cholesterol; 30 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 6 g sugar; 15 g protein; 620 mg sodium.
— Elizabeth Karmel is a grilling and Southern foods expert and executive chef at Hill Country Barbecue Market restaurants in New York and Washington, as well as Hill Country Chicken in New York. She is the author of three cookbooks, including "Pizza on the Grill."