July 16, 2013

Old-fashioned Tomato Pie

It's hard to say much good about Texas summers. I've learned to tolerate and endure them but not look forward to them. While I can't say I enjoy this sultry season, it's brought me to appreciate certain things. One of those things, thanks to my gracious hosts, is the early arrival of garden vegetables. I've been tasked with harvesting Mary's tomatoes and have been quite pleased to reap the rewards of her year-round efforts.

I've noticed that these home-grown tomatoes are less pulpy than the store-bought variety. Less juice was released than when I normally cut tomatoes. Their cross sections were beautiful, too, and held together marvelously when processed. 

So, what to do with all these lovely tomatoes coming in? I decided to make a tomato pie using a Southern living recipe I had tried--and received rave reviews on--last year. Even if you don't like tomatoes, in the least try the accompanying crust recipe. It is fantastic!

This particular pie is a bit fussy, especially given the tomato processing and homemade pie crust. So, quick and easy cooks, this one is not for you! However, if you have several hours to spare or want to make something special for the vegetable lover in your life, you'd be well rewarded for your efforts.

My suggestions as you try this for yourself:
  • Stick with store-bought tomatoes
    As photogenic as the backyard ones were, they yielded a tougher, chewier filling than ones from the grocery store. And the lack of pulp meant the top tomato layer dried out. 
  • There's no substitution for Gruyère
    There was no comparison between the topping with Gruyère and the topping with substitutions (specifically, sharp cheddar and queso fresco). Going for Gruyère cheese--and for that matter a good mayo--is well worth it here.
  • Prepare your pie crust ahead of time
    Have I mentioned that this recipe is fussy? Save yourself some frustration by getting the pie crust out of the way, preparing and chilling the dough hours or even days in advance. This will free your time for all that tomato processing.

Oh, and here's a tip I found by trial and error for cutting cold fats like butter and shortening into flour mixtures for biscuits, scones, or pie crusts: make sure the fat is well chilled and then grate it directly on top of the flour mixture. This makes it much easier to cut the fat in with a large fork or pastry blender. I love using Mary's stainless steel mixing bowls for this. I blast it in the freezer before preparing the crust just to help those fats melt until they hit the oven.

If I haven't scared you away yet, you'll find the recipe below. Enjoy, y'all!

Southern Living's

Old-fashioned Tomato Pie

Pie Crust
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
   1/4 cup vegetable shortening, cut into pieces (I used a grater for mine)
      4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces (again, I prefer to grate mine)
   1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
      3 to 4 tablespoons ice-cold water

2 1/4 pounds assorted heirloom tomatoes, thinly sliced
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt, divided 
      1 sweet onion, chopped
1 1/4 teaspoons freshly ground pepper, divided
      1 tablespoon canola oil
   1/2 cup assorted chopped fresh herbs (such as chives, parsley, and basil)
   1/2 cup freshly grated Gruyère cheese
   1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
   1/4 cup mayonnaise

Prepare pie crust: Process first 4 ingredients in a food processor until mixture resembles coarse meal. With processor running, gradually add 3 tablespoons ice-cold water, 1 tablespoon at a time, and process until dough forms a ball and leaves sides of bowl, adding up to 1 tablespoon more water, if necessary. Shape dough into a disk, and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill 30 minutes.

Unwrap dough, and place on a lightly floured surface; sprinkle lightly with flour. Roll dough to 1/8-inch thickness.

Preheat oven to 425°. Press dough into a 9-inch pie plate. Trim dough 1 inch larger than diameter of pie plate; fold overhanging dough under itself along rim of pie plate. Chill 30 minutes or until firm.

Line piecrust with aluminum foil; fill with pie weights or dried beans. (This will keep the crust from bubbling up.) Place on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet.

Bake at 425° for 20 minutes. Remove weights and foil. Bake 5 minutes or until browned. Cool completely on baking sheet on a wire rack (about 30 minutes). Reduce oven temperature to 350°.

Prepare filling: Place tomatoes in a single layer on paper towels; sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt. Let stand 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, sauté onion and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper in hot oil in a skillet over medium heat 3 minutes or until onion is tender.

Pat tomatoes dry with a paper towel. Layer tomatoes, onion, and herbs in prepared crust, seasoning each layer with pepper (1 teaspoon total). Stir together cheeses and mayonnaise; spread over pie.

Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until lightly browned, shielding edges with foil to prevent excessive browning. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature. Yield: 1 9-inch pie.


  1. It might have been the variety of tomatoes because I used fresh local, homegrown tomatoes that were meaty, juicy and absolutely delicious in this recipe. :-)

    1. Good to know, Lynnelle! Rereading the post, I'm surprised I cautioned against it. It was a hot, dry summer in Texas so I wonder if that would have affected their juiciness. I haven't seemed to have much more luck even with the store bought ones recently. The flavor and freshness of local, homegrown tomatoes, strawberries, peaches, etc. just can't be beat!