Summer means tomatoes, right? They’re mealy and soft and not particularly flavorful for most of the year, but as soon as it gets hot outside, tomatoes are where it’s at. They come in all the colors of the rainbow, you can eat them when they’re green or when they’re a deep, ruby red, or really, anywhere in between. Enjoy them raw with a little salt, like my dad does, pureed into a flavorful sauce, baked or sun-dried until dehydrated and chewy, or in a pie, like this one. I was a little skeptical when I put this together, but I really, really, really wanted to make a savory pie that didn’t have a million ingredients. I wanted to make something simple and summery, something that could be eaten at brunch with eggs just as easily as it could be brought to a picnic and eaten chilled or room temperature alongside a myriad of other picnic-y foods. If you love the taste of juicy summer tomatoes, enhanced by a little time in the oven, sprinkled with rich Parmesan cheese and enveloped in a flaky, pastry crust, well, do I have the pie for you. I can only imagine that this pie would be improved with some chives or fresh basil, but of course I had neither of those things and just went without. Maybe even a spread of thick, creamy ricotta in the bottom of the pie would make it absolutely magical. But for now, you only need a few ingredients, a little butter and some time before you’ve got a savory summer pie good enough to write home about.
Pie aside, Kramer and I have been just swamped, especially Kramer. Poor guy’s been at work until well past 8 or 9 PM every night, and by the time we both have time to sit down and eat dinner this week, it’s usually around 9:30 or 10 PM, we watch one or two episodes of TV together, then it’s time for bed so that we can wake up and do it all over again the next day. Isn’t summer supposed to be when things are a little slower? We still have one more vacation to look forward to before beach season is over, thankfully, and I think perhaps when everyone else realizes that it’s almost sweater weather, they’ll lighten up and take it easy on ol’ Kramer. We’ve got big Friday plans to hit up Maison Premiere, too, so that’ll help, and maybe we can squeeze another day in at the beach some time soon. I still have water in my ear from this past Saturday at the beach, but instead of being annoyed I’m just going to look at it as my not-so-friendly reminder that we need to spend as much time there as possible before the sun starts setting at 4 PM and we’re freezing our asses off on our way to work. Ah, yes, New York, she is a cruel mistress.
Hello, my pretties.
So – roll your pastry out. You can use the recipe I provided below, or your favorite pie crust.
The recipe that I provided is more of a pastry than a pie crust, though, which I love, but it also doesn’t hold up super well to decoration, so just go ahead and pat the crust into place and chill while you prep the rest of your ingredients.
When you’re ready, sprinkle the bottom of your crust with a little cheese.
Keep layering everything until you’ve used up all of your ingredients, and top with a little butter.
Use a little extra pastry for decoration if you wanna get fancy, then bake for 40-45 minutes until the crust is a deep, golden brown.
Let cool and set before slicing.
- ¼ cup warm water (115 degrees F)
- 1 packed dry active yeast (usually about 2¼ teaspoons)
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- ½ cup whole milk, room temperature
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- 1 egg, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, chilled and cubed
- 2 large heirloom tomatoes, thinly sliced
- ¾ pound Parmesan cheese, grated
- ¼ sweet yellow onion or 1 shallot, thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
- 1 egg, lightly beaten (for the crust)
- In a medium sized bowl, combine your warm water, yeast and 1 teaspoon of granulated sugar. Let them sit until the yeast is foaming, about 5 minutes. If your yeast doesn't foam, it's probably old and it's best to start over than to try to make this with old yeast. Better safe than sorry!
- Once the yeast is ready, add in your ½ cup whole milk, ¼ cup granulated sugar, egg and salt. Whisk until combined and set aside. In a large bowl, add in your flour and cubed and chilled butter. Cut the butter into the flour (you can use a pastry cutter, but I find that hands work best) until coarse crumbs form, but you will still have a few pieces of butter in there - that's fine!
- Add the wet mixture into the flour mixture and use a wooden spoon to combine until everything just comes together. Turn the dough out onto a well floured surface and use your hands to pat it into a square. Use a flour rolling pin to roll it into a 9x13-inch rectangle. Fold the dough into thirds, like you're folding a letter to put into an envelope, then roll the dough out again and, again, fold it into your envelope thirds. Roll the dough out a third time, fold it into thirds again, and roll it out again into a 9x13-inch rectangle. Finally, fold the dough into thirds once more, but instead of rolling it out again, cut the dough in half, wrap each square in plastic wrap, and chill for a minimum of 2 hours or as long as overnight. You can also freeze this dough for up to 3 months.
- When you're ready, roll out one of your halves of dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Place it in your pie dish and pat the edges into place (this is more of a pastry than a pie crust, so it won't hold any super decorative edges like a regular pie crust would. Place the crust in the freezer while you prep the tomatoes and cheese. You can save any pastry scraps to cut out and place on top of your pie, if you like.
- Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Slice your tomatoes into about ½-inch slices, getting rid of any especially watery parts. Thinly slice your onion or shallot, and grate your Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle your tomatoes with the salt, pepper and crushed pepper flakes.
- Pull your crust from the freezer and sprinkle the bottom with about ¼ of your Parmesan cheese. Spread a layer of tomatoes out over the first layer of cheese, then sprinkle with a few slices of onion. Top with another ¼ of your cheese, then another layer of tomato, a sprinkle of onion, another ¼ of your cheese, and so on, saving a little cheese for the top to sprinkle over everything once you're done, then arrange your cubes of butter over the top of everything.
- If you like, you can cut out shapes or decoration with any pastry scraps - I cut out little flowers with mine, as you can see. Arrange those on the top of your pie, if you want, then brush the crust and any decoration with a little bit of beaten egg. Place the pie in the oven and bake for 40-45 minutes or so, until the crust is golden and the filling is bubbling.
- Allow the pie to cool and set for at least 30 minutes, then slice and serve. This also keeps well covered and refrigerated overnight to serve for brunch or lunch the next day. This pairs well with a side of fried eggs.