08.22.2017

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The Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Fair was just in town for four days and we hit it hard – rides, games, watching woodsmen chop logs and oxen pull heavy loads. There were piglets and the cutest baby goats of all time. At the end, Dylan announced that the fair is better than Christmas and I have to say, I kinda agree.

Every year we enter homemade goodies in the fair. This year Gray entered a pile of popsicle sticks glued together entitled “Cage” and Dylan entered a clay model of a brown bear. Nick wanted to enter a loaf of sourdough after taking the blue ribbon in mens bread last year but surfed instead of baked. I entered the single crust pie category with a Southern Tomato Pie.

I have to admit I had little hope of my tomato pie fetching a ribbon. This is a very classic yankee fair and summer fruit pies almost always take the ribbons. That said, I am a lover of savory pies and really wanted to take advantage of the amazing island grown tomatoes. I adapted Vivian Howard’s Southern Tomato Pie recipe and got the third place ribbon. This is not a simple, quick recipe. It has many steps but the end result is really special. First, you use over 3 pounds of tomatoes. Half are drained over a sieve and kept fresh while the other half are roasted in the oven with fresh thyme. The crazy part is the cheese mixture that is spread over the tomatoes – fontina, parm, and MAYO. If you know me you know mayo is the one food on this earth that I despise but this was a country fair entry after all and I was baking for the judges, not myself. I have to say, when the pie came out of the oven I was convinced the mayo was a good idea.

*PARTY! If you’re on Martha’s Vineyard this weekend come stop by the West Tisbury Library on Sunday from 6:00 to 7:00. I’ll be there selling books along with island author pals Jennifer Tseng and Susie Middleton. We will have bubbly drinks, cake, and snacks. I hope you come and join us!

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Southern Tomato Pie from The First Lady of Carolina Cooking

Makes 1 pie

For the pie crust

1 14 cups all-purpose flour
2 12 teaspoons granulated sugar
12 teaspoons salt
6 tablespoons cold butter cut into 12-inch cubes
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon ice-cold water
12 teaspoon white vinegar

For the filling and topping

3 1⁄2 pounds vine-ripe tomatoes, cored, seeded, and cut into 1⁄2-inch dice, divided
2 teaspoon salt, divided
1 teaspoon sugar, divided
1 tablespoon butter
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced with the grain
1 teaspoon picked thyme
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
14 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
13 cup packed whole basil leaves
12 cup mayonnaise
13 cup grated fontina
13 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 large Roma or heirloom tomatoes, thinly sliced and blotted dry with paper towels
Make the pie crust: Place the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium for a few seconds. Begin adding the butter one cube at a time. Continue until the flour is speckled and crumbly, about 4 minutes. With the mixer still running, add the water and vinegar until just combined. Do not overmix. Press the dough into a 6-inch disk, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and chill in the refrigerator overnight.
Bring the crust to room temperature and lightly butter a 10-inch metal pie pan. Preheat the oven to 400°. Dust your counter and rolling pin lightly with flour and roll the crust slightly larger than your pan. Lay the crust in the pan and press gently into its edges. Cut off the edges that hang over and discard. Freeze for at least 15 minutes or until you’re ready to blind-bake.
Lay foil or parchment paper on top of the crust and weigh that down with dried beans or rice. Blind-bake the shell for 30 minutes. Remove the pie weights and foil or parchment and bake 5 minutes more. Set the cooked crust aside as you prepare the filling.
Make the filling: Toss half of the diced tomatoes with 1⁄2 teaspoon salt and 1⁄2 teaspoon sugar. Set them over a colander to drain while you get everything else ready, at least an hour.
Lower your oven to 375°. In a medium sauté pan or skillet, melt the butter and then add the onion and 1⁄2 teaspoon salt. Cook over medium-low heat until deeply caramelized. This will take about 45 minutes. If the onion gets away from you and burns a little, add 1⁄4 cup of water to the pan, scrape up the overbrowned bits, and keep going. In the end, you have a scant 2⁄3 cup caramelized onion.
Toss the remaining diced tomatoes with 1⁄2 teaspoon salt, thyme, and olive oil. Spread in a single layer on a sheet tray with as much room separating the individual pieces as possible. Slide the tray onto the middle rack of your oven and roast for 30-35 minutes. You’re looking for the tomatoes to dry out and brown slightly.
Once all the individual components are done, stir together the onion, the fresh and roasted diced tomatoes, the remaining salt, sugar, black pepper, and basil.
Make the topping and finish the pie: In a separate, smaller bowl, stir together the mayonnaise, fontina, and Parmigiano. Spoon the filling into your blind-baked crust. Top with the cheese mixture and tomato slices. Bake in the middle of your oven for 30 minutes. You can serve this warm or at room temperature. Both have their virtues.

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