In my most recent (and first ever) Pie on Sunday post, I began with saying that I love pie.
I love something else almost as much.
I love basil.
Fresh, sweet basil.
And because of basil, among other things, I’m already breaking with tradition a little this week. Usually when I think of pie, especially pie on Sunday, I first imagine a sweet fruit filling between two flaky layers.
But this week, I had a few reasons to take a brief detour. My family and I traveled to Minnesota for a wedding and a family reunion on my husband’s side. It was requested that the cousins (that includes us) bring an appetizer to share before the main meal at the reunion.
What to bring, what to bring…
While contemplating this very dilemma, I had glanced over at the two boxes of tomatoes resting on my kitchen counter. A beautiful array of blemish-free tomatoes, perfectly round and red, a small variety called “4th of July”, seemed to sit up a little more straight with their crunchy dry stems perking up as I stared deep in thought. I’d already canned a batch of salsa as well as a few pints of larger tomatoes to have on hand over the winter. What could I use these little beauties for?
The dilemma wasn’t so much what to make, but more so what could I do to use them up. You see, this is the dilemma every year late in the summer, when my dad delivers (several times) a plethora of pretty tomatoes. He does this because he has the same tomato problem every year.
He plants way too many tomato plants. This year, the most ever: 54.
Yes. You read that correctly.
Not 54 tomatoes (which would probably be a just-right yield in itself), but 54 tomato plants.
If a person’s sanity could be measured by tomatoes alone, I think my dad could be certifiable.
And it isn’t just the tomatoes. He goes crazy with just about his entire garden, which by the way, is large enough to feed the entire Duggar family. All 21 of them (by my last count). Really.
His usual potato planting practices alone result in anywhere from over 200 to more than 350 hills of potatoes in the ground, depending on the year. And imagine the number of potatoes each hill yields. While he doesn’t go quite so crazy with other vegetables, he does plant many different types, including cabbage, Brussels sprouts, eggplant, kohlrabi, rutabaga, carrots, onions, beans, cucumbers, summer and winter squashes, all kinds of peppers, zucchini, kale, and more. And there are usually several varieties of each. Which is why I think my dad ends up with so many tomato plants: He can’t bear to plant just one of each variety. It’s his insurance policy that every variety will survive to harvest, no matter the circumstances.
And every year, it ultimately becomes my tomato problem.
Which brings us back to pie. And basil.
Since I would be making a pie for Sunday anyway, and I needed an appetizer for the reunion, and I had all those tomatoes, I knew just what to do.
I would make Tomato Basil Pie, and kill three birds with one stone. (I wonder if those birds they refer to are pie birds. You know, the ceramic kind that are placed in the middle of the pie to vent and allow steam to escape? Seems a little more than a coincidence, don’t you think?)
An irresistible combination of cheeses layered with diced fresh tomatoes and fragrant ribbons of slivered fresh basil leaves atop a prebaked crust and baked again until it all becomes a melted bliss, this pie can’t be beat. It’s the perfect answer to a hot cheesy dip, yet instead of any dipping, the crust plays the part of built-in crackers, and you can eat it with a fork.
Since my pie crust recipe makes enough dough for a two-crust pie, and a tomato basil pie needs just one crust, I decided to go ahead and make two pies. And I’m glad I did, because I went home from the reunion with two empty pie plates.
Yours in pie,
This recipe for Tomato Basil Pie comes from The Ivy Bake Shoppe Cookbook, by Martha Wolf. The Ivy BakeShoppe and Café is located in historic downtown Fort Madison, which is along the Mississippi River in southeast Iowa. I’ve never been to The Ivy, but it’s on my list of places to visit, and I can’t wait for the day, because I’ve heard that their breakfast pastries, coffee bar, and lunch items are simply irresistible. No customer leaves The Ivy disappointed. And you won’t be disappointed with this Tomato Basil Pie.
Tomato Basil Pie
1 baked 9-inch pie crust
*3 medium-size tomatoes, diced and drained
1 c. fresh basil leaves, loosely measured, then slivered
1 clove garlic, minced
¾ c. mayonnaise
¼ tsp. freshly ground pepper
¼ c. shredded Parmesan cheese
Put ¾ c. of the mozzarella cheese on the bottom of the pie crust. Cover cheese with tomatoes and then layer on basil. In a bowl, combine garlic, mayonnaise, pepper, Parmesan cheese, and remaining ¾ c. mozzarella cheese, and mix well. Spread carefully on top of basil layer. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes, or until cheese is golden and bubbly. Makes 8 servings.
*For this pie, I used about 9 of the small “4th of July” tomatoes, which are the size of a large cherry tomato. They were rather juicy, so I made sure to drain them very well. You could use a Roma-type tomato, they have less juice, but still drain them. You don’t want any excess liquid to ruin your cheesy basil bliss.