Joni Woolf: Tomatoes: When pie isn’t dessert

Published 1:33 pm Saturday, August 19, 2017

When the word pie is mentioned, most of us think of creamy fillings piled into a flaky crust, and topped by lovely swirls of meringue — dessert. Pie is of course synonymous with those after-meal sweets that we often enjoy with a touch of guilt.
Tomato pie is not dessert. It can be the center, the main dish of a meal, or it might be a delectable side. However you treat it, it cannot be ignored. The tomato season lasts well into the early days of fall, so now is a good time to try one of the following recipes for tomato pie. Or, if an attractive and delicious side dish is what you are looking for, try the mushroom and blue cheese stuffed tomatoes that are different from earlier recipes that have appeared in this column. There’s nothing like the tomato to add flavor and color to a meal. They also add vitamins and very few calories. (Of course, when you enclose them in pastry and top them with mayonnaise and cheese, the calorie count rises substantially!)
Following are two different recipes for tomato pie, one from a Bluffton, South Carolina, cookbook that a Macon friend gave me years ago — a very good recipe; and another from the recent cookbook by Dora Charles of Savannah, entitled “A Real Southern Cook in her Savannah Kitchen.” The recipes are different, but the main ingredient is the tomato. This time of year, don’t buy your tomatoes at the grocery store: go to one of the local markets and select from the great variety currently offered. Now, go to the kitchen and begin.

Fresh Tomato Pie
2 large tomatoes, peeled and sliced
1 large onion, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
1 9-inch pie shell, baked
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup sharp grated Cheddar cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Sprinkle tomatoes with salt and drain on a cake rack for 15 to 20 minutes. Layer tomatoes and next four ingredients in cooked pie shell. Blend mayonnaise and cheese in mixing bowl and then spread over top of pie. Bake 30 minutes or until top is lightly browned.

Tomato Pie, Savannah Style
4-6 medium garden-ripe tomatoes, sliced about 1/3 inch thick
2 cups Bisquick
½ cup milk
½ cup sliced green onions (scallions), including white and firm green parts
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
About 10 fresh basil leaves, torn
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
2/3 cup mayonnaise, preferably Duke’s
½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 garlic clove pressed or minced.
Drain the tomato slices in a single layer between paper towels until they stop oozing liquid, changing the paper towels, as needed. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.; have ready a 9-inch pie plate. In a medium bowl, use a fork to combine the Bisquick with the milk; you want it to barely hold together. Mix in the green onions. Knead the dough lightly, then press it evenly to the bottom of the pie plate and up the sides. Salt and pepper the tomatoes. Arrange them in layers in the crust, scattering some of the basil leaves evenly over each layer, adding more pepper and drizzling a small amount of olive oil over each layer (very small amount). In a medium bowl, mix the mayonnaise, cheese and garlic with a fork. Spread the mixture evenly over the tomatoes with a thin spatula, leaving a little edge of tomatoes showing. Bake until golden brown on top, 30 to 35 minutes. Let the pie rest at least 10 minutes before serving. (Note: You may use a regular purchased pie crust instead of Bisquick; just scatter the green onions over it before adding tomato slices.)

Tomatoes Stuffed with Mushrooms and Blue Cheese
8 medium-to-large firm, ripe tomatoes
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick)
1 ½ pounds fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 cup sour cream
4 teaspoons all-purpose flour
3 ounces blue cheese, at room temperature
2 teaspoons finely chopped basil
½ teaspoon chopped rosemary
¼ teaspoon lemon pepper
1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons dry sherry
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Sesame seeds
Cut off top of each tomato and scoop out the pulp and seeds, leaving a shell. Invert the tomato cups on paper towels to drain. In a large skillet, melt the butter over moderate heat and saute the mushrooms, stirring until all the moisture has evaporated. In a bowl, stir together the sour cream and flour. Add the mixture to the mushrooms and stir over low heat to blend well. Stir in the blue cheese and cook until smooth. Add the herbs, sherry, salt and pepper and stir until well mixed. Set aside to cool. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Loosely stuff the tomatoes, dividing the mixture evenly among them. Place on a baking sheet and sprinkle with the sesame seeds and paprika. Bake for 15 minutes, or until bubbly, and serve hot.

Joni Woolf, a writer and editor, now lives in Schley County, having moved from her home in Macon several years ago. Contact her at