Tomato Pie

August 12, 2010

People have been bringing me tomatoes – fat, gorgeous red orbs, like Christmas ornaments – and this morning when I went into the kitchen the aroma just reached up and hugged me. I suddenly had this sharp taste memory of James Beard’s Tomato Pie – a dish I used to make all the time when I was in my twenties. I haven’t had it in years, but I had this urgent need to taste it, right now.

James Beard’s Tomato Pie

Begin by making biscuit dough. (I like buttermilk biscuits for this recipe, although any biscuit will do – even the ones that are in the freezer case of your supermarket.)

Buttermilk Parsley Biscuits
Combine 2 cups of flour with 2 and a half teaspoons of baking powder and a half teaspoon each of salt and baking soda. Cut in 1/3 cup of butter until it’s the size of peas, and add a little flurry of chopped parsley (mostly it looks pretty). Stir in ¾ cups of buttermilk until the dough holds together, turn out onto a floured surface and knead a few minutes. Pat it into the bottom and sides of a 9 inch pie pan.

Cover the biscuits with 4 to 6 ripe tomatoes, sliced into nice fat rounds. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Shower a couple of tablespoons of shredded basil on top.

Mix a cup or so of grated Cheddar cheese with a cup and a half of mayonnaise and spread the mixture on top of the tomatoes.

Bake at 375 for about 35 minutes, or until it is golden brown.


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  • That sounds amazing yet so simple. I must try this soon!

  • Bruce Barone says:

    This sounds sooooooooooooo good and the tomatoes in my yard are finally turning red. I had one this morning on a scrambled egg & basil (from the garden) sandwich!

  • Oh this sounds like exactly what I want to eat every day of August for lunch.
    Also, may I say I just adore your writing and I’m so glad to have found more of it here.

  • We’re still struggling to get some color on our backyard tomatoes here in Sonoma County – we’ve had the worst summer weather in half a century. Looks like it will pick up now that the kids are going back to school. On a side note, I am attending the Book Passage annual travel, food and photography conference today through Sunday at Corte Madera. Wish you were there to teach us all a thing or two, Ruth!

  • Laura Vitez says:

    I have been making this tomato pie since reading about it in Laurie Colwin’s column, goodness, 1995 or so? It was an epiphany for me … yes, the recipe, but that’s not actually what I mean. I’d been a subscriber since 1990 when I received a year of Gourmet as a gift, but for whatever karmic reason that column was the first time I’d actually read anything except the recipes. It was like the clouds parted, and I realized, before the word “content” was so uber-familiar, that Gourmet was loaded with content above and beyond its amazing recipes (from which I learned to cook and love food). I actually cried when the magazine was canceled, and am still not over it. I keep hoping you, Ruth, start something similar, recipes, and “content” for the soul, and photographic art for the eyes … I miss it all so much. On the web is fine … just, oh, please …

  • Jil Nelson says:

    Laura, your comment was moving. I am re-reading Laurie Colwin’s “A Big Storm Knocked it Over” and missing out Ruth. I doubt that the new Gourmet mag that will be published in the next few weeks will have the content and gravitas that the last iteration had.


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