French Tomato Pie
You may have noticed it’s tomato season. Time for Caprese salad, tomato and mayo sandwiches (yum, btw), fresh tomato pasta sauce, tomato this, tomato that. One of the perks of the perfect tomato is that it’s best eaten as is, out of hand, like any other delectable piece of juicy summer fruit. But the thing is, with all this fresh fruit around, sometimes you just want something a little bit more satisfying (read fattening). That’s where this week’s recipe, tomato tart, comes in. No less a celebration of tomato season than any slightly healthier dish, this rich, French recipe comes from a cookbook that my mom acquired from a friend sometime in the early 80s. The cookbook, compiled by the local French American School as part of a fundraiser, contains all kinds of recipes submitted by the school’s students and their parents. Most of the recipes in the cookbook are French, but several hail from other parts of the world as well.
This little, unassuming book has been sitting on my mom’s cookbook shelf for over thirty years, but, as far as I know, we’ve only ever used it to cook this one thing. Although it comes from someone else’s family heritage, this tomato tart recipe has been around in our family long enough, that I’d consider it a family standard worthy of passing down to the next generation. During my childhood, my mom often prepared it to bring along on family picnics, or as part of a meal enjoyed al fresco on our back deck. Made at least once every summer, it has been a summer favorite of mine for as long as I can remember.
I’d say using the word “tart” to describe this recipe is something of a misnomer, even though that is how it’s referred to in the little French American School cookbook. Made in a deep-dish pan, the tomato tart consists of sweet, thyme-scented tomatoes and onions all bound together in a quiche-like custard, and baked in a flaky pie crust. This dish is much more substantial than a tart—in fact, I’d call it a pie. Along with a peppery salad of arugula, it would make the perfect lunch all on its own. Add a glass of wine, and cut yourself a slightly bigger slice, it’s the perfect light dinner for a late-summer evening.
Despite several steps, the pie comes together quite easily, although you do have to allow for the baking and stewing time. One important tip: hurry up and make sure you give this pie a try before all the summer tomatoes are gone. I wouldn’t even bother trying to make it with the bleached, rock-hard, flavor-free mid-winter version.
1 recipe pie dough (I use Melissa Clark’s all-butter crust from The New York Times).
2 lb. tomatoes, sliced
2 large onions, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
8 oz. sour cream
½ teaspoon salt
black pepper, to taste
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
2. Fry chopped onions and garlic very slowly in olive oil with salt, pepper, and sugar.
3. When the onions and garlic are soft and translucent, add the sliced tomatoes (reserving and setting aside a few pretty slices for assembling the pie at the end) and thyme, and cook, uncovered, on medium heat until all the juice has evaporated.
4. While the tomatoes cook, roll out the pie dough until 1/8 inch thin and line a 10-inch pie pan. Cover the dough with parchment paper and pie weights (or, dried beans) and bake for 10 minutes. Carefully remove the pie weights and parchment.
5. While the dough is baking, whisk together the eggs and sour cream.
6. Carefully fold the sour cream mixture into the tomatoes, and pour the entire mix into the par-baked pie shell. Carefully lay the pretty slices of tomato on top of the mixture in whatever decorative way you like.
7. Set the pie pan on a foil lined cookie-sheet and bake until just set and slightly golden, about 45 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.