fresh from the garden

We’re now being snowed under by an avalanche of ripe tomatoes from our garden. I’ve been making salsa and sauces for pasta, and using tomatoes in most of our meals for the past couple of weeks. This year, I grew 3 varieties of tomatoes — Costoluto Genovese, Manitoba, and Yellow Pear. Manitoba was the “new” variety to try. It’s okay, but rather a pedestrian variety that just seems like a store-bought tomato. Seed germination wasn’t very good, so I won’t bother with it again. The other two varieties are old timers in my garden. Yellow Pear is a low-acid, pear-shaped tomato which is good in salads or to provide a bright contrast in salsas or garnishes atop baked goods. Costoluto Genovese is a favourite — sturdy, indeterminate plants loaded with bright red tomatoes of an interesting scalloped shape. I use them for everything. In the above photo, all of the red tomatoes are Genovese, the small yellow ones are the Yellow Pears, and the lone green tomato is a Manitoba. Note: Here’s a link to a seed source page describing Costoluto Genovese tomatoes. I originally got my seeds from another source — Salt Springs Seeds on Salt Spring Island in British Columbia.

Last week, I mentioned picking tomatoes and herbs for a tomato pie. In the comments following that post, Dave from Osage + Orange asked, “How do you make a tomato pie?!” My mother asked the same question after she read my post on the weekend, so here is a rather vague description of how I make one of these pies (keep in mind that I almost always cook “by sight” rather than with a recipe). Oh, I have recipe books, but I rarely use them as I seem to prefer making up my own concoctions. Quantities of ingredients are probably pretty flexible, so just experiment and you’ll probably come up with your own tasty variation. Anyhow, here’s my recipe — looks long when I write it out, but it’s very simple and can be made in very little time – not counting the baking part.

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Pastry – this is a simple pastry that I toss together in a couple of minutes.

1 cup or so of unbleached flour
1/4 cup or so of grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon or so of salt (more or less as you prefer, but remember that the Parmesan cheese is salty)
2 tablespoons of butter
cold water

Toss flour and grated parmesan and salt together in a bowl. Stir around a bit. Cut in about 2 tablespoons or perhaps a little more of softened butter. Blend in until the pastry seems sort of “fluffy” (and, no, I can’t explain what I mean by that). Add cold water — probably around 1/4 cup, but I confess that I’ve never really measured it. In any case, just add enough to wet down the pastry and get it to stick together.

Form into a ball and roll out on floured board. Place in whatever pie plate you like — I use a glass deep-dish pie plate. Use a fork to poke a bunch of holes in the crust. Some might put in pie weights or cover with foil and put in dried beans to keep the crust flat, but I don’t bother (you’ll soon find that “I don’t bother” is a familiar theme in my cooking methodology!).

Place pie shell in pre-heated oven (about 325F) for a few minutes to partially bake. It should be baked enough that it is *just* beginning to look a bit golden and not like raw pastry. *Do not* overcook or it will get burned when you finish baking the filled pie later on. Remove and allow it to cool a bit while you prepare filling.


Tomatoes – firm and not too over-ripe. Enough to make about a 1 1/2 inch layer of tomatoes in pie shell.
Onion – about 1/2 cup of thinly sliced onion — I used red onion on the last pie and it was very nice.
Feta cheese – 125 (or more) grams (that will be about 1/4 pound, or more).
Parmesan cheese – 2 tablespoons or so of grated cheese
Salt – a sprinkling
Pepper – fresh ground – as much or little as you like.
Basil – fresh leaves of green and/or purple basil if you have it. A little or a lot as you prefer.
Garlic – 1 or 2 crushed cloves if you like garlic.
Sunflower oil – a dash of it (maybe 1 teaspoon)
Dijon mustard – about 3 tablespoons

Spread dijon mustard inside partially baked pie crust — not thick… just a thin coating inside bottom and sides of crust.

Wash and slice tomatoes about 1/4 inch thick and leave draining in collander while your prepare the rest of the ingredients. Crumble feta cheese, grate parmesan, etc.. Rip up basil leaves and crush garlic. Put tomatoes into a bowl and blend all of the above ingredients (except dijon mustard which went into crust) by gently turning with a big spoon (try not to crush the tomatoes).

Place tomato mixture into the crust. As much as possible, try to place the tomatoes so that they are arranged in flat layers rather than in a mixed up heap. I like to arrange some yellow pear tomatoes, sliced in half lengthwise, and a few whole basil leaves on top of the tomato mix just for visual interest. Sprinkle some parmesan cheese over top — as much or as little as you like.

Bake pie in preheated 350F oven (middle level of the oven is about best to prevent crust from getting burned). Baking time will vary, but probably about 35 to 45 minutes in total. Depending on the type of tomatoes, you *may* wish to remove the pie about halfway through baking and drain off some of the fluid that will accumulate in the crust. This always seems to vary – sometimes there is none, and sometimes there can be quite a bit. If you leave it in the crust, things may turn out kind of soggy. Anyhow, just carefully tip the crust to drain some fluid away, then return the pie to the oven. Pie should be “well baked”. If you don’t like very browned edges to your pie crust, you might want to put a strip of foil over them about half way through baking. However, I don’t bother. Crust tastes okay even when a bit over-browned.

Allow pie to sit for awhile to cool slightly before serving. The filling will be *very* hot when you first remove the pie from the oven. Note: This pie is also nice the next day – even cold from the refrigerator.

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Okay, there’s the recipe. This pie never turns out the same way twice… I suspect because the tomatoes are always a bit different depending on variety and ripeness. I hope the recipe will work for those who wish to give it a try. If you do decide to give it a whirl, come back and post comments about how it turned out, which variety of tomatoes you used, variations in ingredients, etc…

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14 Responses to “fresh from the garden”

  1. robin andrea Says:

    Tomato ripening slowed way down here as the skies were cloudy for a week, but this morning the sun is shining brightly, and if it lasts we’ll have a ton. I’ll have to try this recipe. Sounds yummy. Beautiful crop of tomatoes you have there.

  2. Peter Says:

    Thanks for the recipe. I cook just like you do, with no recipes on hand. I just make and try things as I go and add what I like ..and I do love to cook!

  3. John Says:

    Bev, your recipe sounds absolutely wonderful. I will definitely give it a try soon and will report back. Like you and Peter, I tend to cook by eyesight but have to write the recipes down for my wife, as she’s not disposed to my way of cooking. Your tomatoes look brilliant, too, by the way.

  4. Cathy Says:

    Ummmmm . . . What a beautiful photo – summer’s bounty in a basket.

  5. Nina Says:

    I’ve written down “Costoluto Genovese”. I love the shape! We eat much of our garden bounty fresh (only rinsed and sliced)/ And they’re sooooo pretty to look at!

  6. Wren Says:

    Why am I suddenly craving a salad?

  7. Duncan Says:

    Those Genovese look like real tomatoes Bev, taste like ’em too I bet.

  8. Wayne Says:

    Interesting recipe. Thanks for posting that. I wonder if drier paste tomatoes, like Roma, would cut down on the soaking aspect?

    I’m with Nina on the Costoluto Genovese – they’re beautifully shaped.

    I went through a year of attempting to grow about a dozen non-hybrid varieties, mostly to discover which ones were most suited to conditions here. (Such conditions demand a minimal of care, since I’m usually so inclined.) Only two really stood out – Roma and Rutgers. Brandywines, Early Girls, and the rest all bit the dust.

    Mine have just started to flower (second planting this year). I’m led to believe that pollen is sterile if formed above 90 degF, so I guess we’re a good test for that this summer!

  9. bev Says:

    robin – I was wondering how your tomatoes were doing as you’ve had a lot of cloudy and cool weather. We’ve had so much sun and heat that the tomatoes are ripening early and in huge numbers. It’s difficult to keep up with them!

    Peter – I knew you must like to cook as you’ve mentioned a couple of things you’ve made and also posted a recipe here. I love to cook too – especially when it’s casual stuff that I can make with fresh ingredients and no recipe.

    John – The Genovese tomatoes are very different looking in the garden — they sort of “glow” among the plants. If you do give the pie a try, let me know how it turns out, and which variety of tomatoes you used. I think this pie would turn out very different depending on which tomatoes are used.

    Cathy – As I was carrying the basket into the house, I looked down at it and thought, “Gee, that would make a nice photo,” so went in and got my camera to take a couple of shots. It really did look quite yummy.

    Nina – The Genovese tomatoes are very nice sliced – pretty and unusual shape. They look beautiful on a plate with some basil. They’re also very prolific. Interesting thing is that they produce a range of difference sized tomatoes that become ripe throughout the season. The medium to small ones look particularly nice sliced on a plate.

    Wren – I’m craving salad all the time lately!

    Duncan – The Genovese have a wonderful tomato taste that we don’t get too often in the store-bought varieties. That’s my main complaint with the Manitoba tomatoes… they’re rather bland. Absolutely no comparison between the two varieties.

    Wayne – Yes, Romas might be less inclined to become liquified while bakind. The Genovese are like that too. Most storebought tomatoes are not particulary good for making one of these pies. I’ve tried it before and there can be a lot of water from them.
    You might give the Genovese a try some time. Perhaps they would like your climate. I noticed that in one of the online seed catalogues I came across yesterday while looking for a page to reference, they mentioned that the Genovese like heat and can stand more dryness than a lot of other varieties as they are from the Mediterranean. They certainly do seem to love the heat here this summer. They’re growing in raised beds which keep their feet quite dry. I’ve grown them in a regular garden bed in the past and I’d say they prefer the raised bed. The only “drawback” about them is that the plants can be rather huge and unruly, starting more and more branches loaded with tomatoes. That may or may not be a problem depending on how you like things to be.

  10. Mark Says:

    Wow! They look good enough to eat!

  11. Dave Says:

    Thanks for the recipe, Bev! What a nice surprise – I’m a BIG fan of tomatoes, and I remember my mom used to make stewed tomatoes when I was a kid. Of course, I’ll just take them as is! You posted an awesome photo too!

  12. bev Says:

    Mark – The Genovese are *good* tomatoes. They taste the way I remember tomatoes used to taste!

    Dave – You’re welcome. If you like tomatoes a lot, you’ll enjoy this pie. (-:

  13. george Says:

    Those pictures sold me on the recipe, so I got some heritage tomatoes yesterday at our farmers’ market, a nice sweet onion, threw in the feta and some parmesan, some fresh basil, some gray sea salt with five pepper blend but cheated by using a store-bought crust. We are at about 9000 ft. elevation and I had to bake it for nearly an hour at 350 and it turned out very nice but a bit less firm than I’d hope for. Would adding an egg or two help? There’s one piece left so tomorrow I’ll see how it is coming right out of the fridge.

    Love your web site—it’s one of my favorites and I encourage all my friends to read it, too. Your photography and descriptions are wonderful.

  14. bev Says:

    george – Thanks for posting a comment about trying the recipe! Yes, I think that adding one or two eggs might firm up the pie. I think that some people also make a sort of custard for tomato pies, although I have never done so. The other thing that some do is to make the pie more like a flan — just a thin layer of tomatoes over a larger crust. I’ve done that in the past, although it doesn’t use up as many tomatoes, which is usually the big “problem” around here (trying to keep up with the tomato plants!).