Wherever I go, the conversation almost always lights on food. That's a given with my job. But I think that casual food talk happens almost as often as people chatter about the weather. It's a good opener, an easy topic that most people can relate to. It can be merely for fun or lead to the real sharing of ideas and information.
Several weeks ago I attended an all-day Clemson gardening program at the Exchange Park in Ladson. My very nice lunch companion, Michael Cuff, was a first-time acquaintance. He is a Massachusetts transplant who has been living in the Lowcountry five or so years. We had a shared mission that day: unlocking the secrets to growing great tomatoes.
As it turned out, Michael has family in the restaurant business: Charleston Burger Company west of the Ashley.
But mainly we talked about tomatoes, and he promised to send me a recipe for tomato pie that he really likes. He did. Now if those tomatoes will only deliver on their promise!
This recipe appeals to me because it's not as mayonnaise-y as some.
For the crust: 1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup yellow cornmeal 3/4 teaspoon fine salt
1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces
3/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons shredded manchego cheese
For the filling: 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced 21/4 pounds mixed heirloom tomatoes
Kosher salt 3/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup mayonnaise 3 tablespoons breadcrumbs
3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Freshly ground pepper 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
Directions Make the crust: Pulse the flour, cornmeal and fine salt in a food processor to combine. Add the butter and 3 tablespoons manchego; pulse until the mixture looks like coarse meal with pea-size bits of butter. Drizzle in 4 tablespoons ice water and pulse until the dough comes together; add 1 more tablespoon ice water if necessary. Turn out onto a sheet of plastic wrap and pat into a disk. Wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 45 minutes.
Put the dough between 2 sheets of parchment paper and roll into a 13-inch round. Transfer the dough to a 91/2-inch deep dish pie plate. Fold the overhang under itself and crimp the edges. Pierce the bottom of the crust all over with a fork. Refrigerate until firm, about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Line the crust with foil, then fill with dried beans. Bake until the edges are golden, about 20 minutes. Remove the foil and beans and continue baking until golden all over, 10 to 15 more minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool.
Make the filling: Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring until golden, about 15 minutes. Let cool. Meanwhile, thinly slice the tomatoes; toss with 1 teaspoon kosher salt in a colander. Let drain, gently tossing occasionally, about 30 minutes.
Increase the oven temperature to 375 degrees. Combine the remaining 3/4 cup manchego, the mozzarella, mayonnaise, breadcrumbs, 2 tablespoons each chives and parsley, the thyme, 1/4 teaspoon each kosher salt and pepper, and the sautéed onion in a bowl. Spread in the crust. Arrange the tomatoes on top. Drizzle with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and season with pepper. Bake until the tomatoes are browned, about 50 minutes. Top with the remaining 1 tablespoon each chives and parsley.
For the crust: You will probably use more than 5 tablespoons ice water (I used 7-8).
Experiment on how long to keep the dough in the refrigerator. (I found 45 minutes was too long.)
If you don't have them, buy ceramic pie weights.
For the pie itself: Make a day in advance, or if having at night make in the early part of the morning. No matter what you do, the tomatoes will not be fully drained. I found, the longer you let the pie sit (after it is fully cooked), the firmer it gets.
Sharon Cook of Charleston writes, “When I worked with some foreign students from Central America, they made a delicious nonalcoholic smoothie type beverage that featured cantaloupe and milk. I think they also made a simple syrup by cooking pineapple rind with sugar and water and then added that to the beverage mix. Would you see if any of your readers are familiar with the recipe?”
Mary Gainey of West Ashley is reading a book that made mention of Lasagna Carciofi, which is lasagna with artichokes. We wondered if any readers make this and can give a recipe.
If there's a recipe you've lost, have memories of or a dish you are just wondering about, let us know. Email Food Editor Teresa Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org.