Meatless Mondays: Cherry Tomato Pie

Your childhood dreams of having pie for dinner are about to come true.

Photo: Ian Knauer

Ian Knauer is a regular contributor to TakePart. He worked for ‘Gourmet’ and is the author of the IACP Award–nominated cookbook ‘The Farm.’

Why meatless on Mondays? Not only is eating less animal protein a healthy diet choice, but curbing your meat consumption can have a significant environmental impact too. In 2006 the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization reported that animal agriculture accounted for a full 19 percent of greenhouse gases—more than the transportation sector. Best of all, with recipes like these, going meatless can be a delicious weekly habit.

I’ve been making a lot of pies this summer. I live in a place surrounded by pick-your-own orchards that charge far less for a quart of blueberries or strawberries than the supermarket if you’re willing to walk through the rows of bushes and trees plucking the perfectly ripe fruit by hand. I can walk away with a quart of berries for about five bucks. That’s a really good deal.

The problem, I’ve been finding, is that between the blueberries, apricots, peaches, raspberries, strawberries, and cherries, I’ve been eating more than my share of sugar. For the past few weeks, I’ve been walking around in a mellifluous haze of sweet.

Pie does not have to be sweet, however, and the vegetable patch is just starting to yield a bounty of savory options—the first of which is a bouquet of sweet-tart cherry tomatoes. By using them instead of berries for a filling, I can have my pie at dinner too.

Of course, the crust of a pie is just as important as the filling, and while my go-to all-butter piecrust would make for a wonderful canvas for cherry tomatoes, I’ve recently been playing with oil crusts.

Oil piecrusts were made popular by Wesson Oil in the 1920s as a way to promote its product to frugal home cooks. Oil is less expensive than butter or even lard and can produce a perfectly flaky crust. The problem is that vegetable oil like Wesson has no flavor. But other oils have great flavor, and one pairs particularly well with tomatoes: olive oil.

This is possibly the simplest of all crusts to make, and it carries with it the flavor and aroma of extra-virgin olive oil. It’s a perfect foundation for summer’s first tomatoes.

Cherry Tomato Pie

Serves 8

This savory pie is an ode to early summer. Cherry tomatoes are the first to ripen. When combined with a mix of fresh herbs then baked into an olive oil crust, they remind you why you’re alive. Seriously.

Ingredients

Crust:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/3 cup olive oil

2 to 3 tablespoons water or milk
 

Cherry tomato filling:

2 tablespoons cornstarch

2 tablespoons minute tapioca

1 tablespoon sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes

2 pounds cherry tomatoes, halved if large

1 cup mixed chopped herbs (basil, oregano, chives, savory)

3 tablespoons mayonnaise

2 tablespoons capers in brine

Directions

Crust:

Preheat the oven to 350° F.

Whisk together the flour and salt in a bowl. Stir in the oil with a wooden spoon or spatula until it is incorporated and looks lumpy. Stir in 2 tablespoons of the water, and squeeze a handful of the dough. If it is still crumbly, stir in the remaining 1 tablespoon of water. Form the dough into a ball and place on a sheet of wax paper. Flatten the dough into a disk; then flour the top and roll into an 11-inch round with a floured rolling pin, dusting the dough and pin with more flour as needed.

Place a 9-inch pie plate over the dough. Using the paper as a guide, turn the dough into the pie plate, and peel the paper away. Press the dough into the pan, and fold the edge under to form a crust. Crimp the edge of the dough if desired. Prick the dough all over with the tines of a fork and chill at least 30 minutes.

Place a sheet of aluminum foil in the dough and fill with pie weights. Bake the crust until it is set, about 20 minutes. Remove the foil and weights and continue to bake the crust until golden, 20 to 25 minutes more. Let the crust cool completely before continuing with the recipe.

Filling:

Preheat the oven to 400° F.

Pulse the cornstarch and tapioca in a spice grinder, then whisk together with the sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 3/4 teaspoon pepper in a large bowl. Cut the tomatoes in half, then stir into the cornstarch mixture. Fold in the herbs, mayonnaise, and capers, then place in the pie shell.

Bake the pie until the filling is bubbling, 35 to 45 minutes. Let the pie cool completely on a rack before slicing and serving.

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