Robin Anish | The Table is Set: A love letter, of sorts, to tomatoes

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I don't like tomatoes but I so want to. At this time of year, I envy those who do. Frequenting farmers markets and road side stands, I marvel at the freshly harvested globes of goodness. I adore the shapes and sizes, from that of a tiny currant tomato to the hefty beefsteaks and oxheart. The stunning colors in brilliant yellows, oranges, shades of red that range from pink to a red — so dark they are almost black — resemble an artist's pallet. There are even glossy white tomatoes and green tomatoes — not unripened green tomatoes, but tomatoes that are green when ripe!

The delicious aroma that only comes from a garden-fresh tomato is heavenly and the fragrance a tomato plant gives off when I brush my hand across the leaves makes me grateful for summer.

To see a meaty slice of home-grown tomato smeared with mayo on white bread seasoned with a sprinkling of salt and pepper makes my mouth water. People anxiously wait all year for that first bite of a tomato sandwich. Why can't I be one of them? I so want to like tomatoes, but I just can't bite into one without cringing. I think it's a texture thing.

A gardener's pride and joy is the first ripened tomato of the season and that, I can appreciate. I grow lots of tomatoes, all sizes, shapes and colors. Why? I don't like raw tomatoes, but I do like them cooked, especially roasted with garlic, basil and olive oil or in my homemade green tomato mincemeat that I freeze for pie at Thanksgiving. I also love tomatoes in this terrific tomato and basil pie, which should only be made with tomatoes ripe from the garden.

Tomato and Basil Pie

Ingredients:

9" pie crust

1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

About 6 Roma or 4 larger tomato varieties

1 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves

4 cloves garlic

2/3 cup mayonnaise

1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese

black pepper

panko crumbs

extra virgin olive oil

Directions:

Partially bake the pie shell at 425 degrees until the crust just begins to brown. Remove from oven and sprinkle with 1/2 cup of the mozzarella.

Cut the tomatoes into wedges; drain on paper towels and arrange in a circular pattern in the pie shell. Coarsely chop the garlic and basil by hand or in a food processor and sprinkle over tomatoes. Combine mayonnaise, remaining mozzarella, parmesan, pepper to taste and spread the mixture over the top of the tomatoes. Sprinkle a handful of panko crumbs over the pie and finish with a drizzle of olive oil. Bake at 375 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes until golden brown and bubbly. Cool a bit before serving.


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