Wednesday, September 20, 2023

September is for Tomatoes



Shame on you. I am deeply offended. The weather is hot and humid. Yes, there have been a few days of cool air and a whiff of things to come but according to the calendar, summer isn't over yet. In fact, I don't care that we are slowly moving toward fall. I won't concede pumpkin flavors and spices and all of that until at least October 1st. September is NOT for pumpkin spice.  

September is for locals. The beaches, the roads, the supermarkets and restaurants are a little less crowded. Sure they are still busy but now they are filled with more year round residents who opted to stay home in the middle of the summer rather than deal with throngs of impatient visitors with their annoying demands and crying children. Of course, not everyone acts like that but by the end of August, it certainly seems that way. 

Most tourists have gone home and kids are back at school while the perfect beach weather is here. I can easily park on a Friday evening just before sunset at a popular beach in town. Swinging into the lot, I am relieved that I don't need to battle it out by waiting in line for others to pack up and head out. To my surprise, there is plenty of space between groups on the beach, no need to cram on top of each other, unlike those hot days in the middle of the summer.  

I don't go many places outside of work, home and the occasional beach day after 3:00pm during the height of the madness. I launch my paddle board Monday- Friday by 7:00am to avoid any recreational boaters who cause too much wake as they pass by tossing my board about as if I had gone surfing in Hawaii. I may go out for dinner...early as soon as the bar is open, so that I don't have to wait too long or fight my way to get the last seat. 

September is for tomatoes. The tomatoes are ripening fast and furiously- I can barely consume all that Val picks from her abundant vines. I love tomatoes in so many kinds of ways: tomato sandwiches with mayo, salt and pepper on soft white Portuguese bread, BLT's on toasted pain de mie with lemon basil aioli, chopped tomatoes in a layered "Mexican"' dip, roasted cherry tomatoes with balsamic vinegar and rosemary, sliced tomatoes sprinkled with sea salt, tomato pie baked with cheddar cheese and fresh thyme, the list can go as long as there are tomatoes and tomato recipes to be made. 

So while there are fresh, ripe, local tomatoes to be eaten before the weather turns chilly and the vines don't produce any more, I will not condone any type of menu that features classic Autumn flavors, pumpkin spice, falling leaves motifs, etc. until October 1st. Please don't mention the lattes, hot soups and ravioli's highlighting various forms of squash and sage. It's not time yet. I need to squeeze out every last drop of summer and tomato season while I still can. 

Tomato Pie with Herb Crust


3/4 cup cornmeal
3/4 cup AP flour, whole wheat flour or gluten free flour
2 tablespoons fresh thyme or 1 tablespoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 1/2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cubed
1/4 cold water

6 medium sized ripe tomatoes, sliced
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil

1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs: parsley, thyme, etc.
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Pulse cornmeal, flour, thyme, pepper, salt and butter in a food processor until pea size chunks of butter form. Slowly add water to form a loose dough. Remove dough and press onto bottom and up the sides of a pie plate. Prick dough all over with fork. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly.

While dough bakes for 20 minutes, slice tomatoes and lay slices in a single layer on paper towel to absorb juices. Shred cheddar cheese.

Spread shredded cheese over bottom of partially baked crust. Arrange tomatoes in overlapping circular pattern on top of cheese. Sprinkle black pepper and salt over the top of the tomatoes and drizzle olive oil over the top of the tomatoes. Place pie on a rimmed baking sheet to catch any overflowing juices then back in oven for 40 minutes until tomatoes begin to cook down and juices are bubbling up.

Combine topping ingredients in a small bowl. Remove pie from oven after 40 minutes, sprinkle topping evenly over tomatoes then place pie back in the oven for 10 more minutes to bake the topping.

Remove from the oven and allow pie to cool on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes before serving. The pie can also be served at room temperature. The crust is best the same day the pie is baked.

More amazing tomato recipes:

-B. L. T. (Bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich)
-Tomato and Cheddar Tarte (made with puff pastry)