Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Heirloom Tomato Pie

     I have a love-hate relationship with tomatoes. I love a beautiful tomato, ripened on the vine. I love to grow it, to look at it, to hold it, even to smell it. I love all of the beautiful colors and shapes of tomatoes, especially the lovely heirlooms with fanciful names like Radiator Charlie's Mortgage Lifter, Kellogg's Breakfast, or Aunt Ruby's German Green. But that's where the love affair takes a turn.

     There are those who would take a warm, ripe tomato and take a bite out of it, the juice running down their chins. Here's where I have to make my true confession: I am not one of those. I am not a raw tomato eater. Okay, I'll tolerate them in salsa, or on a sandwich, or sometimes even in a salad, but I really do not like crave tomatoes in their natural state. Cook those tomatoes, however, and I'm there. Stewed, sauced, roasted- I love them!

     I saw  this tomato pie on the cover of the latest Food Network magazine, and I knew right away that I had to make it. Beautiful (cooked) heirloom tomatoes of all colors and sizes adorn the top of this cheesy pie baked to perfection. It's full of caramelized onions nestled in a crust crunchy with cornmeal and shredded cheese, and it's a beautiful way to savor the quintessential summer fruit. Paired with a salad, a slice of it makes a lovely dinner, and I hope you have a chance to try it while tomatoes are at their very best!

     You can find Food Network's recipe for Heirloom Tomato Pie here. I followed the recipe as it was written, except I substituted globe basil for thyme and cut back on the salt in both the crust and the filling. I also spread about a Tablespoonful of Dijon mustard over the bottom of the baked pie shell before I added the fillings. The pie shell was a bit time consuming, so if you're in a pinch for time, try a regular one. If you can't find the Manchego cheese (I had to make a trip to Wegman's for it!) I suggest using Parmesan, Asiago or Romano. If you don't have heirloom tomatoes, any beautiful vine ripened tomatoes will do. Really, how can you go wrong with baked tomatoes and melty cheese?


Thursday, July 7, 2011

Very Berry Jam - Make Your Biscuits Smile!

     Blackberries are finally ripe for the picking in our parts, and I didn't waste time getting to my favorite little berry patch to pick some of those deep purple gems. There were a few raspberries left hanging on the canes as well- right next door to the blackberries- and they just happened to find their way into my mouth basket when I wasn't looking.  I love picking berries, especially when there are no thorns to contend with. And I love making jam. If you've never had homemade jam, you don't know what you're missing. One taste of this sweet and tart delight on your biscuit or toast will definitely spoil you- you'll never want the store bought kind again.

     I picked several quarts and headed home with berry stained fingers and my tooth set for some delicious, berry jam! Jam just makes a biscuit smile, and this jam is the easiest ever. It's really more of a method than a recipe, and you can easily adapt it to whatever (and however many) berries you have. No pectin needed- just berries, lemon juice and sugar. You can make a big batch and can it, or if you just want to make a little bit you can store it in your refrigerator for a couple of weeks- if it lasts that long!

Very Easy Very Berry Jam
Berries- I used a mixture of Blackberries and Raspberries
Lemon juice- I used 1 Tablespoon for every cup of berry juice/pulp
sugar- I used 1 cup for each cup of juice/pulp.

To make the jam, I used the guidelines for making jam without pectin from the National Center for Home Food Preservation. If you're planning to can your jam, first prepare your jars.

Wash berries and place in a large saucepan. Mash berries and gently heat over low heat (do not boil) to release juice. I heated mine for about five minutes. If you don't want seeds in your jam, you can strain this mixture through a sieve or through several thicknesses of cheesecloth. I like the pulp and a few seeds in my jam so I ran mine through a Foley food mill to remove most- but not all- of the seeds. Measure the juice/pulp and put it into a large pot. (Don't try to cook more than 5-6 cups of juice/pulp in a batch.) Stir in 1 cup of sugar and 1 Tablespoon of lemon juice for each cup of juice/pulp.

Bring to a boil and boil rapidly, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens. Use one of the following methods to determine when your jam is ready.
  • Boil until the mixture reaches 220F on a candy thermometer. (See this chart for altitudes other than sea level.)
  • Boil until the mixture falls of the spoon in a "sheet" rather than a stream.
  • Drop a spoonful of the mixture on a cold plate and put it in the freezer for a few minutes. Take it out and see whether or not it is thick enough. (The jam will thicken as it cools.) 
Remove from heat, skim off foam (if there is any) and pour jam into prepared jars. If you are canning your jam, follow instructions here. If you are not canning your jam, it will keep in your refrigerator for about two weeks.
Related Posts with Thumbnails