by Jackie Post
The Mile Square Table
I’ve fallen in love faster than the time it takes to prepare this TOMATO PIE—and this time, it’s worth the fuss.
Garlic has to be roasted and made into a paste. Here in New Jersey there’s only a small window to get the best tomatoes in the world (ours) and they have to be sliced, seasoned, laid out on paper towels, blotted and seasoned again. Cheese has to be bought to room temperature. Pastry dough has to be made, unless you buy it frozen from Trader Joe’s.
It’s New Jersey meets France by way of Spain and the Caribbean, with a loving homage to the late Chef Maurice Leduc, who once owned the restaurant on Anguilla, Le Fish Trap, where I first went crazy over his tomato pie. Even The New York Times published an “adaptation” of his recipe, which I saved from 1986. That recipe’s filling is a simpler version and it calls for mozzarella, though I don’t remember the cheese being stretchy.
The shopping list:
1 large garlic bulb
8 assorted very ripe Jersey tomatoes
Herbs de Province (a blend of dried sage, marjoram, tarragon, rosemary, lavender, thyme, basil, savory)
Small bunch of fresh oregano
1/2 lb. Spanish goat’s milk cheese
10″ glass pie dish
Trader Joe’s Pie Crust
Pre-heat oven to 400 and gently break open a large garlic bulb. Put the bulb in a ceramic crock with about 1/3 cup of olive oil, cover and roast for about 40 minutes. While that’s happening, take your cheese out if it’s in the fridge and bring to room temp.
Slice the tomatoes thin, less than a 1/4″, lay them flat on paper towels, salt evenly and let them rest. By now your garlic should be about ready to remove from the oven, let the cloves completely cool and reserve the now flavored olive oil.
Lightly blot the tomatoes with more paper towels and lightly salt again. In a small bowl, squeeze the meat out of the garlic cloves, adding all the garlicky oil and make a mash. To this, add a few more tablespoons of of olive oil until you have a thin paste. You’ll brush this on the tomatoes before layering them in the pie.
Prepare your pie dish by lightly coating the bottom and sides with just enough coconut oil so that when you sprinkle it with about a tablespoon of the French herbs, they stick. Lay your dough into the dish and brush the dough all around with 2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard. If you turned the oven off, bring it back up to 400.
Break up the goat cheese (I used Capricho de Cabra from Spain by way of Whole Foods.) Evenly cover the bottom of the dish with the cheese and then start to lay in the tomatoes, in a circle, moving from the outside to the center, overlapping just a bit. You should have enough tomato slices to make three layers.
After each layer is done and before laying the next, add a few pinches of the French herbs and chopped fresh oregano leaves. After you’ve finished the last layer, hit it with a little drizzle of olive oil and a few sprigs of oregano. Place the pie on a baking pan and bake for about 45 minutes or until you can see the bottom crust is golden and the cheese is bubbling up through the tomatoes and your kitchen smells like the South of France.
Let it cool on a wire rack for an hour to 90 minutes before serving.
Done and Yum.