Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Anything-But-Rotten Tomatoes

Ahhhh summer. 

Summer food is filled with fruit and fresh vegetables and herbs you grew yourself (unless your basil was suicidal, like mine was).  It's fresher and brighter and prettier.  And you can make your teeny stuffy hot house less hot and stuffy by sweet-talking Red Beard into cooking everything on the barbecue.  

And there's tomatoes.

Lots and lots of tomatoes. 

I love tomatoes.   Really love them.  In fact, I tend to over-estimate just how many tomatoes two people can eat before they'll go icky and buy way too many at a time.   Which leads to marinara.  Which is guilt-free because pasta night is wonderful. 

New ways to use up almost-but-not-quite-wonky tomatoes is what led to the creation of tomato pie.   You know the kind of tomatoes I mean, not quite nice enough to eat plain and fresh, just a little soft around the edges, but not bad enough to throw away.  And not quite soft enough to go to the trouble of making another vat of marinara sauce.  Let's face it, good tomato sauce takes time and energy and isn't helpful at all in terms of keeping things less hot and stuffy.

Tomato pie is awesome.  It has bacon in it.  As all things should!

It's also hot and cheesy and basily.

The ingredient list is fairly simple, and includes a lot of things that you probably already have hanging around, if you cook on a regular basis, and this assembly goes quickly.  Especially if you cheat like I did and buy a pre-made crust.  Yes, of course I know how to make pie dough from scratch, but why would I when Pillsbury (or in this case, Raley's fine foods) does such a great job?  If you are feeling all cool and Martha Stewart-y and productive, by all means, make your own.  I won't hold it against you.
  • 1 pie crust (or, if you've got a fancy schmancy super deep pie dish like mine, use 2; overlap them about a third of the way and roll them both out together)
  • 1 medium-to-small potato
  • 1/2 small-ish red onion
  • 1 celery stalk
  • 3 big fat garlic cloves
  • 1/2 bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs (this is important, no regular Italian bread crumbs, too heavy)
  • 1 cup grated jack or mozzarella cheese, divided 
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese, divided
  • 2 strips of thick-cut bacon (or 3 regular ones)
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup of fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 cup of fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • butter
  • salt 
  • pepper
  • nutmeg (hopefully, you've got the lovely whole nuts and you grate them yourself on a microplane, right??)
  • 1 lemon 

... and of course, tomatoes.  I used some heirlooms and a few camparis that were hanging around, but really, use whatever you like to eat fresh.  There's no real amount to give you, because it will depend on how many you can cram on the top of your pie.  I have a very large pie dish.

Blind-bake your pie crust according to package (or recipe) instructions.  I do not bother with beans or rice or pie-weights.  I prick the crust all over with a fork and (mostly) it always comes out fine.  

Bake until lightly golden, and cooked through (no shiny raw spots) but not super dark - the edges will darken up more when you bake the finished pie.  The bottom will cook a little more as well.
Peel and slice your potato, and boil until fork-tender in nicely salted water.  Pretend you're making mashed potatoes for a very small and not-very-hungry leprechaun.

While the potato is bubbling away, mince the garlic ...

Finely dice the onion ...

Give the celery a chop ...

Dice the bell pepper ...

And dice the bacon ...

In a skillet over medium heat, cook the bacon down until the fat is all rendered out and the bacon bits are getting crispy.  Then, add your beautifully chopped veggies and saute until the celery is soft.   If your pan gets too dry, add a little bit of butter. 

Season with salt and pepper and set aside.  

By now, your potato should be more than cooked ... hopefully you've been keeping an eye on it this entire time, and practicing your multi-tasking!  Drain your potato, and add it to a nice big mixing bowl.  Season well with salt and a whole lotta pepper.  

Like any potato-based product, we'll need butter.  Add about a tablespoon.

Mash everything together with a fork and add the panko bread crumbs.

Then the egg.

Add half of of the grated jack or mozzarella cheese (really, any white cheese will do).  I got excited because of the cheese and didn't take a picture - just use your imaginations.  Add half of the parmesan.  Mix well.

Now mix in your lovely bacon-vegetable mixture and half of the chopped herbs (as in, half a cup of the basil and half a cup of the parsley).

Add in the zest of the lemon and about 8 or 10 grates of fresh nutmeg.  If you are using the pre-grated nutmeg, only put in a pinch.  Pre-grated nutmeg is a lot stronger than the fresh grated and it can get overwhelming fast.  It isn't nutmeg pie.  

Taste and adjust the seasonings.  Unless you're weird about the raw egg in there.  I'm not weird about raw eggs.  

Spread a fairly thick layer in the bottom of your pie shell.  Don't be afraid to squish it all down.

Most likely, you'll have some filling leftover.  I think it depends a lot on the size of your potato, not to mention the size and depth of your pie dish.  Leftovers are fine.  Leftovers mean you can do this:

Hollow out a few baby tomatoes, stuff with any leftover stuffing, sprinkle with cheese and bake (uncovered at 400ºF) until gooey.  Perfection!

If you're planning on making this a day ahead of serving, stop now.  

The crust and potato filling will hold fine in the fridge, as long as it's well wrapped.  Once you add the tomatoes, however, you've got about a 2 hour window before you need to get it in the oven.

Speaking of the tomatoes ....

If you really want, you can do slices and arrange the on the top.  Despite my OCD, I prefer random chunks for this.  Don't be shy, use a lot.  You want a full, crammed, no-sign-of-filling-underneath, mix of colors layer.  Don't worry about the juice and seeds - the breadcrumbs soak up all that - I promise, this doesn't turn into a soggy mess.

Season the tomato layer with salt and more (and more and more) pepper.  Sprinkle the top with the remaining herbs (basil and parsley) and cheeses.

Bake at 375Fº for about 35 to 40 minutes, until the cheese is melty and starting to brown, the tomatoes are all soft and roasty, and your crust is golden brown.  

Let it rest of 10 minutes before you cut it.   I'm always expecting the bottom to be a little soggy, or the slices to come out messy, and each time I'm amazed at how cleanly this serves, despite all of the juicy tomato lovelyness.  

We ate ours with roast beef for Father's Day dinner.  But it's also wonderful for brunch.  Or along side BBQ ribs and coleslaw.  Or as a snack the next day.  Or as a 4th of July potluck item.  Or because it's a day that ends in "y".

As much as I think the bacon is one of the best parts of this, you could easily go vegetarian with this, just use butter and olive oil to saute with.  Sorry, though, no vegan options - there is no way to omit the cheese without killing it.

Printable version hanging out over @ Tasty Kitchen!  (CLICK ME!  CLICK ME!)

Monday, June 18, 2012

How Times Flies!

Yes, it's true.  After 11 long weeks, I'm back.

Did you miss me?

Admit it, you missed me.  A least just a little bit.

I don't really have an excuse.  I've been cooking - I've been cooking a LOT.  I've been taking pictures.  I've been really really busy doing all sorts of food pusher-type activities.  So busy, that there just wasn't any time to translate food and pictures to a blog. 

Spring activities included my OCD going into overdrive ...

New shelving in the laundry room means I almost have enough pantry space.

... making sure the Adorable Wonder Kitten had ample play time ..

Blog?  Who needs to blog when this is snuggling with you?

... switching out old itchy ancient flannel couch for new lovely leather sofa (I love hand-me-downs) ...

Puppy tested & Food Pusher approved.

... pink flamingo hunts ...

He was very proud of his stalking abilities.

... making friends with the new toad in our garden ...

We've decided to name him Tobias.

... a few batches of cupcakes ...

Chocolate Cherry with Marshmallow Frosting.  Yes, the cherries are chocolate-dipped.

... some mini fruit tarts ...

Orange Vanilla Cream & Mixed Berries.

... a birthday cake for 2 of my favorite nephews ...

Sponge-Bob rocks among 3 & 7 year olds!
... spending lots of time in my garden ...

... more cupcakes ...

Mini Vanilla Cupcakes, with teeny tiny peacock feathers made from spun-sugar.

... and some brownies ...

Raspberry Dark Chocolate Brownies, with whipped cream & sugared fresh raspberries.

... lemony cheesecake bars ...

Amazon is a phenomenal source for specialty candies.

... and about 10 pounds of chocolate dipped strawberries ...

I love party food.

... not to mention all of the gardening, family events, Granny episodes, and wedding planning.   Coming up, there's barbecues, engagements parties, camping trips, family dinners, birthday parties, and potlucks - plenty of food blogging opportunities! 

Hope you've all had an eleven weeks even half as fantastical as mine!

Coming up tomorrow, Heirloom Tomato Pie.