Cooking With Local Chefs

Showcasing homegrown tomatoes

Heirloom tomato seeds have been passed down for generations
Heirloom tomato seeds have been passed down for generations PROVIDED PHOTO

Summer is officially here, the tomatoes are perfect and being also a bit of a musician myself, I’m reminded of a catchy little tune that goes something like this:

“There ain’t nothin’ in the world that I like better

Than bacon and lettuce and homegrown tomatoes

Up in the mornin’ out in the garden

Pick you a ripe one, don’t get a hard ’un

Plant em in the springtime, eat em in the summer

All winter without em is a culinary bummer

I forget all about the sweatin’ and a diggin’

Everytime I go out and pick me a big ’un

Chorus

Homegrown tomatoes, homegrown tomatoes,

What’d life be without homegrown tomatoes,

There’s only two things that money can’t buy,

and that’s true love and homegrown tomatoes”

The song was written by Grammy Award winning singer and songwriter Guy Clark who passed away, just two weeks ago, on May 17. There are a couple more great verses to the song but you’ll have to check it out for yourself, but the song kind of reminds us about some of life’s simpler pleasures that can get lost in an increasingly fast-paced world.

Most folks think of tomatoes as a vegetable but they are actually a fruit. The French even went so far as to name them “pommes d’amour” or “love apples” because they believed them to possess aphrodisiac powers.

Heirloom tomatoes are varieties whose incomparable flavor and appearance have led seed savers to collect and pass them down through generations of growers. While the flavor of heirlooms surpasses many modern varieties, they do require more attention from the grower. Heirloom tomatoes are all the rage today and for good reason. With names such as Brandywine, Purple Cherokee, Lemon Boy, Green Zebra, Boxcar Willie and Arkansas Traveler and Mr. Stripey, well, the size, color and flavor of these jewels of the vine are as unique as the names they’ve been given.

You could serve them in at least 101 different ways from salads to stews or the classic BLT sandwich, but I’m going to share a true Southern classic — savory tomato pie using these heirloom tomatoes.

Chef David Meador, executive chef at Renaissance on 9th, can be reached at jbjork@renaissanceon9th.org.

Heirloom Tomato Pie

Crust

2  1/4 cups self-rising flour

1 cup cold butter, cut into  1/2 -inch pieces

8 cooked bacon slices, chopped

 3/4 cup sour cream

Filling

3 pounds assorted large Heirloom tomatoes, divided

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 1/2 cups freshly shredded Cheddar cheese

 1/2 cup freshly shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

 1/2 cup mayonnaise

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1 green onion, thinly sliced

5 or 6 leaves of fresh basil

1 1/2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper

1 1/2 tablespoons plain yellow cornmeal

1. Prepare crust: Place flour in bowl of a heavy-duty electric stand mixer; cut in cold butter with a pastry blender or fork until mixture resembles small peas. Chill 10 minutes.

2. Add bacon to flour mixture; beat at low speed just until combined. Gradually add sour cream,  1/4 cup at a time, beating just until blended after each addition.

3. Transfer the dough to a floured surface; sprinkle lightly with flour, and knead 3 or 4 times, add more flour as needed. Roll the dough to a 14-inch round. Gently place dough in a deep pie pan. Press dough into pan; trim off excess dough along edges. Chill while you prepare the tomatoes.

4. Cut tomatoes into  1/4 -inch-thick slices, and remove seeds. Place tomatoes in a single layer on parchment paper.

5. Sprinkle with sea salt and bake for 10 minutes at 325 degrees to dry them out, and this will sweeten them just a bit.

5. Stir the cheddar and Parmesan cheese into the mayonnaise, add the egg and season with salt and pepper and mix well.

6. Sprinkle cornmeal over bottom of crust. Lightly spread  1/2 cup cheese mixture onto crust; layer with half of tomato slices in slightly overlapping rows. Spread with  1/2 cup cheese mixture and some of the fresh basil. Repeat layers, using remaining tomato slices and cheese mixture and herbs.

7. Bake at 425 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes, shielding edges with foil during last 20 minutes to prevent excessive browning. Let stand 1 to 2 hours before serving If you can wait that long.

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