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Taste of Summer

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Photos by Andrew Cebulka

June 18, 2014

Taste of Summer
Not much is better than a juicy tomato plucked straight from the vine—especially if it’s an old-school heirloom variety

Hallelujah! It’s heirloom tomato time here in the Lowcountry. If you don’t already have a few of your own backyard plants, get yourself to a local farmers market or roadside stand stat for these delicious orbs ripe from the vine. Eat them thickly sliced with a sprinkle of salt and black pepper or stuffed between two pieces of white bread anointed with a quarter inch of mayonnaise. Or make this amazing tomato pie that we personally taste-tested at our Editors’ Luncheon last summer. Former Stars chef Nathan Thurston, who now is a chef instructor at Art Institute of Charleston and helms his own consulting business, Thurston Southern, shares the recipe below. The amount of filling this recipe yields will depend on the size of the tomatoes. Have a second pie crust at the ready, just in case.

Heirloom Tomato Pie
Chef’s Note: Make sure the tomatoes are in season and not mealy. Check by slicing the tomato and inspecting the interior. “If it’s juicy and smooth without many specks in the ‘meat,’ you’re good to go,” says Thurston. “If it’s a little dry and speckled throughout, cook it down for canning or making tomato paste.”

(Serves 8)
1 9-inch pie crust, par baked for 15 minutes
2 cups mayonnaise
1 Tbs. red wine vinegar
2 large eggs
3 cups grated white cheddar cheese
4-5 heirloom tomatoes, cored and cut into 1/4-inch slices
Freshly cracked black pepper
Fine sea salt
1 Vidalia onion, thinly sliced
1 bunch fresh basil leaves

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Prepare the pie crust. While it cools, place the mayonnaise, vinegar, and eggs in a bowl and blend thoroughly.

Start assembling the pie with a thin layer of cheese on the bottom of the crust. Top with a layer of sliced tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Add a light layer of onion and basil and then the mayo mixture. Repeat until the filling comes within one-quarter inch of the crust. Cover the final layer with cheese.

Bake in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until the top is well-browned. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Chill the pie in the refrigerator for at least an hour to prepare for slicing. Slice into wedges and place in a 400°F oven for five to seven minutes, or until warm.

To read the full “Ripe for the Picking” feature and get flavor profiles and best uses for the myriad varieties of heirloom tomatoes, click here.

For chef Forrest Parker of Old Village Post House’s Heirloom Tomato Salad recipe, click here.

For chef Robert Carter of Rutledge Cab Co.’s Heirloom Tomato Jam recipe, click here.

For detailed info on Limehouse Produce’s annual Tomato Trek contest (June 16 to July 12) and a list of the participating restaurants, click here.