Since August is known as the time for local produce, especially tomatoes, a homemade tomato pie recipe from Phoebe Canakis pleases the palate and complements plentiful tomatoes perfectly.
Canakis of Phoebe’s Pure Food lives in Lancaster County and spends much of her time focusing on bringing a strong reverence and flair into the avenue of appreciating local food prepared in line with what makes taste buds happy.
“Any red tomato that is in season will do,” Canakis says about her tomato pie recipe. “It must be in season and locally grown for fresh flavor. You cannot make this recipe and wish for something amazing using tomatoes from a plastic carton from the grocery store.”
She recommends Thessaloniki, Japanese black trifele and German strawberry tomatoes.
Canakis notes that German strawberry tomatoes are low in seeds and also have a juice that suits this pie well.
“Let’s talk about local tomatoes first,” Canakis says about the importance of using local tomatoes in this recipe. “The labs may be able to simulate the taste of caramel from the spinning of chemicals, but you cannot replicate the taste of a sun-warmed, just harvested tomato. Period. If you don’t have the time and the passion to get your hands dirty growing it, your neighbor farmer does, so why not support his passion to bring you the best tomato his soil and hard work can give you.”
Checking out the tomato selection at Wolff’s Apple House will give you a good array of choices, too.
“Tomatoes are so versatile, and often recipes require little work to bring out their sweet, acidic and earthy flavor,” Canakis reflects. “All you really need to start is good extra virgin olive oil, fresh herbs, salt and balsamic, and you can whip up salads, roasted tomato sauce, and this pie. It’s so uncomplicated…like summer should be.”
And of course it’s also nice to know that you’re eating something made in your own kitchen, packed with nutrition that first began to blossom in local farm fields.
“Tomatoes are known for their antioxidants like lycopene, but interestingly, the health benefits of tomatoes are boosted when they are cooked versus eaten raw (like most veggies); the lycopene becomes more concentrated (think tomato paste),” she says.
Canakis adds that the recipe can be adapted as gluten-free by using Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free products in the crust.
“The fresh basil and garlic are really what make this dish sing,” she says. “The tomatoes, on their own, could not pull it off. It’s the good company they keep in fresh herbs that makes it pop!”
Canakis notes that she found this recipe is best enjoyed when freshly baked but still good on day 2. It serves 8 to 10 people, depending on how slices are cut.
- 1 prepared pie crust (not baked yet)
- 4 medium tomatoes
- 1 cup loosely packed basil leaves
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
- 4 ounces low fat cream cheese, softened
- ½ cup milk
- ⅓ cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Prepare tomatoes: Slice the tomatoes, and be sure to remove the goopy seeds. If you like, you can put the tomato slices on a paper or tea towel; it’s a trick from the Lancaster Central Market Cookbook. You could cut an X on the bottom of the tomato and drop in and quickly pull out boiling water to peel the skin, if you like.
Pre-bake crust: Line 9-inch pie dish with pie crust. Pierce the shell with a fork, add pie weights or dried beans and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the pie weight, and sprinkle ½ cup of shredded cheese in pie crust.
- Prepare filling: Finely chop the basil, garlic, thyme, and chives. You can chop with a knife or put in a small food processor.
- In a small blender or stirring by hand, combine the cream cheese, milk, and parmesan. Arrange the tomatoes in the pie crust, top with the herb purée, spread the cream cheese mixture, and sprinkle the remaining 1 cup of shredded cheese. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until golden.