During the summer, I simply cannot eat enough fresh home grown tomatoes. The flavor of a just-picked tender home grown tomato is unsurpassed, and conjures a fond memory of grandma’s table with loads of fresh vegetables from her bountiful garden.
Perhaps that is why I still have a tomato bush, year in, year out. There is something compelling about home grown tomatoes. In fact, I once heard someone say that if you don’t know what to talk about with a stranger, even a famous one, the subject of home grown tomatoes always breaks the ice.
To make one of my favorite Christmas dinner dishes — a simple savory pie made with fresh home grown tomatoes, mayonnaise, cheese, and a pie shell — I have to plan ahead. Before the frost hits, I ceremoniously pick any remaining tomatoes on my vine (which typically are still green). I wrap up the tomatoes in newspaper or paper towels and place them in a lightweight container (like a Styrofoam cooler). Then I add one medium size apple (any kind) to the container, and cover it all with the lid. Like a Christmas miracle, the home grown tomatoes will ripen slowly and burst with flavor as if they’d been kissed by the sun.
Below is a family recipe from my family cookbook for single-crust home grown tomato pie, a Christmas tradition in our house that is lovely served warm as a side dish, and just as wonderful all by itself.
Matilda’s Christmas Tomato Pie
frozen pie shell, baked 15 minutes according to package directions
5 ripe medium tomatoes, sliced thick
1 cup Best Foods mayonnaise (do not use Miracle Whip)
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated
Salt & pepper, to taste
Slice the ripe home grown tomatoes and fan the slices around the bottom of the partially cooked pie shell. Sprinkle tomatoes generously with salt and pepper. Combine mayonnaise and cheddar cheese, then spread this mixture evenly over the top, making sure all tomatoes are covered. Bake for 30-35 minutes in a 350 degree oven. Topping should be slightly browned. Slice and enjoy.
Some cooks, like Paula Deen, prefer their tomato pie with herbs and several cheeses, but I’m more of a purist and prefer the true tomato taste. See which one you like best, and by all means, please include this recipe in your family cookbook, if you so desire. Once you try home grown tomato pie, you’ll wonder how you’ve survived Christmas dinner without it.