It’s summer time, and my absolute favorite summer crop is tomatoes – specifically heirloom tomatoes. Most of the time, I just want one plain – sliced, salt and pepper. That’s it, perfect.
But this afternoon, Garden and Gun (one of my favorite magazines) posted a photo of an heirloom tomato pie on its Facebook page, and it got me thinking…and craving. I knew that I had to make one for dinner. So as soon as I left my office, I went straight to Whole Foods to pick up fresh heirloom tomatoes.
I picked up both red and yellow varieties, as well as some fresh thyme, basil and a beautiful brick of nutty gruyere cheese – upon recommendation from their cheese guy.
I am not sure about you, there is something so satisfying about a tender, flaky pie crust – whether sweet or savory a pie might be one of the best things to ever grace an English table.
But sometimes messing with the pie tin and shaping the edges just seems so cumbersome. That is why I am a HUGE fan of the crostata. This Italian cousin of the English pie is free from. Just pile up the filling in the center, and fold the crust up around it. I also love crostata because you don’t have to fit a mold, and since it was just my brother and me this evening, I decided to make two smaller pies instead of one huge 9-incher. AHHH you see – there IS a method to my madness sometimes.
Crostatas are a great way to do individual pies without having pans. Just roll out smaller disks, fill ’em up and fold. No fancy pie pans – just a rimmed cookie sheet and some parchment.
2 cups flour
8 oz butter
1/2 tsp salt
2-3 tbsp ice cold water
I am a huge fan of making my pie crust in the food processor – cause it take seconds. However a pastry cutter or even a plain ole fork will do just fine. First, cut the butter into the flour and salt. The butter should be about the size of peas and well distributed through out the flour. These butter globs will create the flaky texture when they melt and create steam in the oven. Don’t believe me? Turn on that oven light and watch it cook.
Then add enough water to for the dough to start to come together. It doesn’t need to form a tight ball, but it needs enough moisture to bring everything together and form a ball when pressed together. Turn the dough out on plastic wrap or wax paper, form into a disk and put in the fridge to cool – at least 30 minutes. You need to work with cold dough.
5 medium heirloom tomatoes, sliced into 1/4 inch slices
1/2 onion, sliced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tsp thyme, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
4 oz. gruyere cheese, grated
1 tbsp basil, chopped
To get this started, take the sliced tomatoes, spread them in a single layer on several layers of paper towels. Sprinkle with salt. This will help pull moisture out of the tomatoes to keep the crostata from getting soggy. This is a really important step. Let the tomato slices sit for at least 30 minutes.
In a saute pan, caramelize the onions in the olive oil. Once the onions are mostly cooked, add the thyme and garlic. Cook for no more than 1 minute more – just until very fragrant. Allow to cool.
Put it all together
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Take the dough out of the refrigerator and cut into two portions. Roll out the dough into a large circle about 1/8 inch thick. Fold the dough into quarters and place on a parchment lined sheet pan, then unfold. Spread half of the onion mixture in the center of the dough leaving about an inch and a half border.
Then, add half of the grated cheese on top. Then, arrange the tomatoes on top in a single layer, overlapping just a little. Because I had two different color tomatoes, I alternated colors. Sprinkle with chopped basil and grate a little lemon zest on top.
Once your filling is in place. Start folding up the dough around the filling, this holds everything in and in place. Repeat for your second crostata.
Place in the center of your oven, and bake for 18-23 minutes. Watch closely – the crust should be golden brown and the tomatoes starting to bubble in the middle. Remove from the oven and rest for at least 10 minutes. This will help cool everything down, and make slicing and serving much easier.