Recipe: This Summer Tomato Pie tastes fabulous couldn't be easier to make
Summer Tomato Pie
"This tomato pie and I go back more than two decades to Salisbury, Connecticut, and a lovely tea café called Chaiwalla (named for the tea vendors in India) owned and tended to by Mary O’Brien," says Suvir Saran, chef and owner at The House of Celeste. This was at Chaiwalla where I taught my very first cooking class in 1997. "During the course of several weekends, we got to know each other, and I got to know Mary’s überdelicious tomato pie," he elaborates. The recipe now features in his book Masala Farm.
As the chef describes it, a thin biscuit-style crust props up two pounds of ripe and juicy Roma tomatoes that are cushioned within a base of sharp aged cheddar and a combination of fresh and dried herbs. The tart is deceptive —while it appears fancy and sophisticated, it couldn’t be easier to make, being no more difficult than any rustic-style pie. He gives us a tip,"I often add harissa to the mayonnaise base to give the pie a spiciness that works really well with the sweetness of the tomatoes." As for following the recipe to a tee, he recalls, "Mary insists that the pie is best made the night before you plan on serving it and then reheating the cooked pie in a 50°F/180°C/gas 4 oven for 30 minutes."
For the biscuit crust
2 cups/255 g all-purpose/plain flour
1/4 tsp herbes de Provence, or mixed dried herbs
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp sea salt
6 tbsp/85 g unsalted butter cut into small pieces
3/4 cup milk
For the pie
2 lbs/910 g tomatoes or two 25.5-oz/715-g cans or jars of plum tomatoes, drained and pressed between sheets of paper towels/absorbent papers to remove excess moisture
2/3 cup/130 g store-bought or homemade Mayonnaise
1 tsp herbes de Provence
2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp roughly chopped fresh basil
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh chives, or parsley
Freshly ground black peppercorn
2 cups/220 g grated aged cheddar cheese
1 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
Place the flour, herbs, baking powder, and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse until there aren’t any pieces larger than a small pea. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and pour in the milk, stirring until the mixture is shaggy and no wet spots remain. Knead just a few times to create a ball of cohesive dough. Use a knife to divide the ball into 2 pieces, one slightly larger than the other.
Place the larger dough ball on a long sheet of plastic wrap/cling film or parchment/baking paper and cover with another sheet. Roll the dough out into a 12-inch/30.5-cm circle that is about 1/4 inch/6 mm thick and then place the circle on a baking sheet/tray and refrigerate it for 20 minutes. Repeat with the other dough ball, rolling it out to a 12-inch/30.5-cm circle (it will be thinner than the first) and then placing it in the refrigerator to chill.
Preheat the oven to 400°F/200°C/gas 6. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and place a large bowl filled with ice and water next to the sink. Slice a small X in the bottom of each tomato and then plunge the tomatoes into the boiling water for 30 seconds. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the tomatoes to the ice-water bath, adding more ice as it melts. Remove the tomatoes from the ice-water bath and place them on a paper towel–/absorbent paper–lined plate to drain, then peel and slice them into 1/4- to 1/2-inch-/6- to 12-mm-thick rounds (if using canned plum tomatoes, skip this step). Carefully remove the seeds and set aside. In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise and herbes de Hebron, and set aside.
Remove the thicker dough circle from the refrigerator and peel off the top layer of plastic or parchment/baking paper, using the bottom sheet to transfer the crust to a 9-inch/23-cm pie plate. Trim any overhang to just 1/2 inch/12 mm over the edge of the dish. Brush the dough with the oil and then arrange half of the tomatoes in overlapping layers in the bottom of the crust. Sprinkle with half the basil and chives, season with salt and pepper, and finish with an even layer of 1 cup/110 g cheese. Layer the remaining tomatoes over the cheese, sprinkle with the remaining basil and chives, season with salt and pepper, cover with the herbed mayonnaise, and finish with the remaining 1 cup/110 g cheese.
Remove the other rolled-out crust from the refrigerator, peel off the top sheet of plastic or parchment/baking paper, invert the dough over the top of the tart, and peel away the remaining sheet of plastic. Fold the overhang under the edge of the bottom crust and crimp the edges to seal. Brush the top of the crust with the melted butter.
Bake the pie until the crust is golden, 25 to 35 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool for at least one hour before serving warm, or cool longer and serve at room temperature.