Thursday, July 15, 2010

new kitchen, heirloom tomatoes

It has been a surprisingly hot and unsurprisingly lovely summer so far. Drenched in sweat, the stickiest I've been above the Mason-Dixon line, I have had a wonderful two months while neglecting this blog. There was a trip to Texas filled with gush-worthy pork belly and the juiciest peaches and my mother: the only person who never fails to be in the mood for gelato every time that I am. I've been cooking a little, less than I said I would after the stresses of school fell away, but more than seems appropriate when 97 degrees makes turning on the oven seem ridiculous. New seasonal tastes have arrived, I can barely drink water if it doesn't have a hefty handful of cucumbers in it. I have renewed my devotion to stone fruits, the peaches, the plums, and the apricots, oh my. And all of this in a brand new kitchen, four blocks from the old. I am still adjusting to the shift, I haven't organized my spices, I have yet to hold a potluck, and the toaster remains in an awkward limbo between the top of the refrigerator and the counter. 

But enough is enough, and to truly christen a kitchen, baking a pie is in order. On my flight down to Texas in early June I read a book by Laurie Colwin where she waxes poetically about a tomato pie. Never having eaten one, this struck me first as odd and then as brilliant. I nearly forgot about my savory pie intentions until this week, when flipping through a Gourmet from last summer I saw a recipe that the editors described as an offspring of Colwin's pie and a cheesy James Beard version. It was time. The oven preheated, the dough rolled out, I christened my oven with the smells of roasting tomatoes and fresh basil. And it was good, really good. Carefully (and astonishingly successful) I wrapped the still warm pie in plastic bags and biked gently over to my friends to present them with the goods. Three slices of cheesy, sweet corn filled, crusty pie deliciousness later we all sat, sated by the freshness of summer produce and the feeling of indulgence and nourishment that can only come from a flaky homemade pie crust. And that is exactly the note I wanted to set for my new kitchen: a place where real ingredients can be combined with loving effort to nourish the ones I love. 

Tomato Pie
adapted from the August 2009 Gourmet

serves 6 as a light meal

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 3/4 tsp salt, divided
6 Tbs cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes, plus 2 tsp melted
3/4 cup 2% milk
1/3 cup mayonnaise
2 Tbs fresh lemon juice
1 3/4 lb heirloom tomatoes, or the best you can find, sliced crosswise 1/4 inch thick
1 cup of corn, about 2 ears, chopped coarsely
4 Tbs chopped basil, divided
6 ounces grated sharp cheddar, about 1 1/2 cups

Whisk together flour, baking powder, 3/4 tsp salt in a bowl, then blend in cold butter with your fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add milk, stirring until mixture just forms a ball. 
Divide dough in half and roll out to 12 inch rounds, about 1/8 inch thick. Lay one round on the bottom of a glass pie plate, trimming any overhang. 
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Whisk together lemon juice and mayonnaise.
Arrange half of tomatoes in the crust, overlapping, and sprinkle half the corn, 2 Tbs basil, and a  pinch of salt and pepper over the top.
Repeat with remaining tomatoes, corn, basil, salt and pepper, then add one cup of the cheese.
Pour lemon mayonnaise over the filling and top with remaining cheese. 
Add second round of pie crust to the top, folding overhang over the edge of bottom crust and pinching to seal. Cut 4 steam vents into top of crust and brush with 2 tsp of melted butter.
Bake pie until crust is golden and filling is bubbling, about 35 minutes. Let cool and serve warm or at room temperature. Dig in.

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