Being neighborly is an art--a high art in the South.
We have a "text first, then open the door" policy with our next door neighbors whose generosity has sent me down their driveway with everything from garden-grown salad greens to dress-up clothes.
We get to enjoy the antics of Griswoldian lights, a 15-foot inflatable reindeer, and a real-life Mr. Claus at Christmas without having to set up, or store, or sleep in the same bed with any of them.
We have a standing Thursday evening arrangement to drop in there--or here--for wine, a cocktail, a meal, or perfectly edible baking "mistakes."
The other day, I came home bearing a shirt hem full of ripe tomatoes and a recipe for tomato pie--along with a blessing to play with it a bit, my reputation preceding me.
It's a homey recipe, but one that cannot be rushed or faked.
The flaky pie crust, the rosy red tomatoes, and the Duke's are all nonnegotiable.
The outcome is as warm and welcoming--as quintessentially southern--as being a good neighbor.
And it's just the thing to serve to yours, no matter where you live.
Serves 4 to 6 as a main course, or 6 to 8 as a side dish
Inspired by Susan Phillips
- 1 chilled ball of basic pie dough
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil (plus an extra drizzle), divided
- 1 medium onion, thinly sliced into half moons
- 1-1/4 tsp. salt (plus an extra pinch), divided
- 2 pounds ripe tomatoes, thinly sliced
- 1 cup shredded gruyère cheese
- 1 cup shredded manchego cheese
- 1/4 cup Duke's mayonnaise
- 3 Tbsp. breadcrumbs
- 1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
- 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh chives
- 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh Italian parsley
- 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil
- Freshly ground pepper
On a lightly floured surface, roll your dough into a 12-inch round. Work quickly lest the butter melt and you have a sticky, uncooperative mess on your hands.
Drape the dough over your rolling pin to facilitate its transfer to a round 9- to 10-inch pie plate. Gently press the dough into the plate's bottom and fold any overhang under itself, crimping the edges with the pads of your thumb and index fingers. Dock the bottom crust with the tines of a fork. Refrigerate until firm again--20 minutes or so--while you preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Line the unbaked crust with foil, filling it with pie weights (or dried beans or rice). Bake for 20 minutes, then lift off the foil and weights and continue baking until golden all over, 10 to 15 minutes more. Place on a wire rack to cool, but leave the oven on.
Now for the filling. Heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil in a large sauté pan set over medium heat. Once shimmery, add the onion and that pinch of salt and cook until tawny, about 15 minutes. Set the pan aside to cool.
Next, thinly slice the tomatoes (1/8-inch slices if you can manage) and lay them in a big colander over a sink or bowl with 1 tsp. salt sprinkled over them to encourage them to weep. Let them sulk for about 30 minutes, agitating them now and then.
Increase the oven temperature to 375 degrees while you continue with the filling. Combine the cheeses, mayonnaise, breadcrumbs, thyme, a tablespoon each of the parsley, chives, and basil, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, a grind of pepper, and the sautéed onions in a bowl. Stir well and then press this mixture into the cooled crust.
Now arrange the tomatoes on top. Make it pretty too, please. Drizzle with a curl of olive oil and grind some pepper over top.
Bake until the tomatoes are browned, about 50 minutes. Top with the remaining herbs and allow to set at least five minutes before slicing into wedges to share a plate with everything from a zippy cucumber salad to corn on the cob. Or cover with a cloth napkin and nestle into a picnic basket for a next door delivery.